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The Lake News Online
  • Grants and loan guarantees available to help small rural businesses and farms cut energy costs

  • U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is seeking applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems.
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  • U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is seeking applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems.
    "Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America," Vilsack said. "This funding will help farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations, create jobs and help America become more energy independent.  When small rural businesses and farmers cut their energy costs with cleaner and more efficient energy, we are both helping their bottom lines and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that affects our climate."
    The funding announced today is being provided through USDA's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Investments from programs like REAP help support the true engine of America's economic growth - a thriving middle class.  REAP is one of many USDA programs and initiatives to support an expanded domestic energy economy. In addition to helping to increase renewable energy production, USDA makes investments in the bio-economy, provides support for the emerging bio-based products industry, supports new technologies, and supports energy efficiency improvements.
    "The REAP program is an energy efficiency program, but it is more. Missouri has been able to fund projects which positively impact local economies and have produced advanced technologies," Rural Development State Director Janie Dunning commented. "Through REAP, we have funded projects which reduce operating costs for businesses, farmers and ranchers. These projects not only assist community and economic development, but the energy savings and energy advancements extend the life of existing energy resources and contribute to preserving a healthy ecosystem."
    REAP funding has helped farmers expand renewable energy use in recent years.  The new Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms utilizing renewable energy production has doubled in the last five years. More than 57,000 farms reported using a renewable energy system in 2012, while 23,451 operations reported doing so in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63% of renewable energy systems on farms, with 36,331 farms reporting their use.
    REAP funding is an example of the ways that USDA is helping revitalize rural economies to create opportunities for growth and prosperity, support innovative technologies, identify new markets for agricultural producers and better utilize our nation's natural resources.
    Created by the 2008 Farm Bill, REAP was reauthorized by the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill. For fiscal year (FY) 2014, USDA plans to award up to $12.3 million in grants and $57.8 million in loan guarantees. Additional REAP funds provided by the Farm Bill will be made available with a subsequent notice.
    USDA is accepting applications for:
    • Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantee and grant combinations;
    • Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantees; and
    • Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grants.
    Page 2 of 2 - Requests for grants may not exceed 25 percent of a project's cost - either for stand-alone grant requests or for grants combined with loan guarantees. Information on how to apply for REAP funding and on the application deadlines (which vary by project type) is available on page 25564 of the May 5, 2014 Federal Register.
    In Missouri, 40 REAP projects were funded in Fiscal Year 2013 resulting in an investment of $1,383,632. These investments are a return of taxpayer dollars to the state. Among the projects funded were solar panel installations, installations of energy efficient grain dryers and heating systems, installations of insulation and energy efficient lighting in farm and ranch shop buildings and funds to develop a solid biomass fuel production facility.  
    For other examples of USDA investments in rural communities, please visit RD's interactive web map at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/RDSuccessStories.html.  The map features program funding and success stories for fiscal years 2009-2012. For further information about Rural Development programs in Missouri visit the website at:  http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/mo.
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