Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced loans and grants for agricultural producers and rural small businesses across the country to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in their operations. The funding is provided through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager made the announcement on behalf of Secretary Vilsack while attending an energy efficiency conference.
“Stable energy costs create an environment for job growth in rural America,” Tonsager says. “The Obama Administration is helping agricultural producers and business owners reduce their energy costs and consumption – and by doing so is helping preserve our natural resources, protect the environment and strengthen the bottom line for businesses, ranchers and farm operations.”
Collectively, these REAP-funded projects announced, and those announ-ced earlier by USDA, are expected to lower energy usage by two billion kilowatts and prevent nearly two million metric tons of emissions from being released into the environment. The announcement concludes the REAP awards cycle for 2011.
Impact On Farmers, Ranchers
REAP, authorized through the 2008 Farm Bill, provides loans and grants for farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.
Tonsager says that in fiscal year 2011, USDA Rural Development provided through the REAP program a total of $23.2 million for energy efficiency projects, $20.9 million for biodigesters, $20.3 million for solar energy projects, $8.2 million for hydroelectric systems, $7 million for biomass energy projects, $4.28 million for flexible fuel pump projects, $3.9 million for wind energy projects and $1.4 million for geo-thermal installations.
Improving Energy Efficiency
One recipient announced, Wilford J. Hayden in Lowell, Ind., is expected to save almost 1.4 million kilowatt hours when he replaces a grain dryer with a more efficient one. K and K Farms, Inc., in Stuart, Ia., has been selected to receive a $10,737 grant to help purchase a new grain drying system that is expected to reduce annual energy costs by more than 57 percent.
Under Secretary Tonsager noted that the nearby Port of New Orleans moves more than half of the nation’s grain exports, and that the more fuel efficient grain dryers that USDA is helping to fund contribute to that success.
“The Port of New Orleans is considered America’s gateway to the global market,” says Tonsager. “It helped American farm exports reach a record high of $137.4 billion for fiscal year 2011 – supporting 1.15 million jobs and creating a record trade surplus of $42.9 billion.”
With the announcement, USDA Rural Development is funding more than 280 projects to help reduce energy costs. In all, the department funded more than 1,100 energy efficiency projects in fiscal year 2011.
USDA contributed information for this article.