August 18, 2011
On Wednesday, August 17, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of $11.6 million in FY2011 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants to over 900 agricultural producers and rural small businesses across the country. The grants can be used to finance up to 25-percent of the project costs, not to exceed $500,000 for renewable energy projects and $250,000 for energy efficiency projects. The grants awards, provided under REAP’s renewable energy and energy efficiency provisions, were all in the amount of $20,000 or less.
Over half the grants – 533 grants – went to farms, ranches and rural small businesses to improve their energy efficiency. Another 305 grants were awarded for solar projects. There were also 20 grants awarded to wind projects, 20 awarded for flexible fuel pumps, 20 for geothermal projects, 14 for biomass projects, 3 for hybrid projects involving both energy efficiency and renewable energy, and 1 grant award for a hydroelectric project. The USDA press release includes a description of some of the grant projects. USDA has also released a list of the projects awards and project purposes for each state.
NSAC supported a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill that reserves 20-percent of REAP funding for grants in the amount of $20,000 or less. We are pleased to see the large number of successful applications for projects that can provide farms and rural businesses with energy savings and replace the use of fossil fuels with solar, wind, geothermal, and locally produced biomass as energy sources. Unfortunately, the House FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill, passed by the full House in June, cuts REAP funding to $1.3 million. This amount would only allow for basic program maintenance in FY2012 but no new REAP grant or loan awards. Action in the Senate on FY2012 agricultural funding will likely commence after Labor Day.