Bill to Improve Rural Energy for America Program Introduced
March 23rd, 2012
On Thursday, Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced Senate Bill 2225 that reauthorizes and amends the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP provides agricultural producers and rural businesses with grants and loans for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The Program also provides grant funding for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance.
The Franken-Harkin bill has new provisions for REAP that are supported by NSAC including:
- Simplifying the Application Process: The bill simplifies applications for small projects, creating a three-tiered application system with application simplicity reflecting the size of the project.
- Cutting Burdensome and Costly Regulation: The bill eliminates the USDA’s “two-meter rule,” which currently requires farmers to install a second meter for residential use that goes unread. This rule has levied heavy costs on farmers, and once removed by this bill will allow more farmers to benefit from REAP funding.
- Strengthening Environmental and Health Provisions: The bill requires the USDA to include stronger environmental and health aspects in its award considerations.
- Expanding Start-Up Support: The bill strengthens funding for feasibility studies so that rural farmers and businesses can start projects with sound planning
The new bill also proposes to increase the authorization for appropriation for REAP from $25 million to $100 million, and set the farm bill mandatory funding level for REAP at $70 million a year. In recent years, demand for REAP dollars has outstripped supply by a 3:1 margin. USDA recently issued a progress report on REAP accomplishments.