Morgan, Minn., Aug 06, 2013 -- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien today met with Minnesota agriculture producers, business owners and energy officials to discuss the Obama Administration’s renewable energy policy and highlight USDA’s continuing support for farmers markets, local and regional food systems. O’Brien was joined by U.S. Senator Al Franken.
"Renewable energy helps businesses and agricultural producers reduce energy usage and become more profitable, which creates jobs,” O’Brien said. “It also enables farmers and rural small businesses to obtain new sources of revenue."
O’Brien spoke about renewable energy’s importance to rural Minnesota communities during a visit to the 2013 IDEAg Farmfest show. Now in its third decade, Farmfest features demonstrations of the latest agriculture technology. It connects more than 35,000 manufacturers and providers with more than 600 companies and producers.
USDA has several programs and initiatives that support businesses and agricultural producers. The Department’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, for example, coordinates USDA’s work to help rural communities tap into the rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar local foods market. USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) supports the initiative by helping agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs.
During his visit, O’Brien announced the selection of 17 rural Minnesota businesses for REAP grants to make energy efficiency improvements or adopt renewable energy systems. O’Brien said announcement of these recipients is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs such as REAP to rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy and continue programs such as REAP, O’Brien added, saying that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Bill done as soon as possible.
Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant or loan agreement. A complete list of the recipients is available.
O’Brien also highlighted the importance for our environment of renewable energy and energy efficiency development programs. Today’s REAP announcement comes following the June announcement of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which outlines a comprehensive approach to reduce carbon pollution and better prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change. USDA continues helping rural America innovate to lead the world against modern climate challenges, and a summary of the Department’s efforts are available at www.usda.gov/climatesolutions.
From the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill through September 30, 2012, REAP has helped Minnesota farmers and rural businesses conduct nearly 600 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, feasibility studies and energy audits. Through REAP, these recipients have received almost $14.5 million in grants and $5.2 million in loan guarantees, leveraging approximately $39 million in rural communities throughout the state. Here are some recent examples:
• In Wrenshall, Minn., Janaki Fisher-Merritt received a $17,500 REAP grant to install a 10 Kw photovoltaic solar panel system for Food Farm, his certified organic vegetable farm about 30 minutes south of Duluth. The 40 panels replace 75 percent of the farm’s electrical usage from the greenhouses, seed germination chamber, cooler space and tractor.
• To save energy and lower his utility bills, Spring Grove, Minn., grocery store owner Pat Longmire used a REAP grant to purchase and install glass doors for his coolers. The doors resulted in a savings of about $500 per month.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.