November 10, 2011
On Wednesday, November 10, USDA announced a round of 2011 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) loans and grants to farms, ranches and small rural businesses.
As with the first and second rounds announced earlier this year, NSAC is pleased to see that of the 59 grants awarded almost one-half were in the amount of $20,000 or less. In addition, 28 of the grants were for geothermal projects, 18 for solar projects, 12 for wind projects, and four for small hydroelectric projects, with some of these grants for solar-wind combinations. Two of the grants were awarded for energy efficiency projects. These grants reduce energy costs for farms, ranches and small businesses and, in many cases, provide additional energy resources for the local community.
USDA is also providing REAP loans for two larger scale projects. A loan of $7.2 million was awarded to EBD Hydro in Oregon for a hydroelectric project and a loan of $4 million was provided to Mayberry solar in North Carolina.
In addition, in October, USDA announced a special round of funding for biodigesters in eight states. The awards went to a number of on-farm digesters for dairies, mixed poultry and livestock operations, and fruit and vegetable operations. In addition, biodigesters for sewage sludge and waste water treatment plant sludge were funded, as well as community biodigesters which can handle a variety of on-farm and off-farm organic material.
Despite the value of the REAP program to communities around the nation, REAP funding is at risk in the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations process. The House-approved FY2012 bill slashed REAP funding by 97-percent, leaving token funding of $2.3 million. The Senate FY2012 bill would provide $38.5 million for the REAP – a 49-percent decrease in funding. The Senate and House measures are now being reconciled by a House-Senate Conference Committee, which may be wrapping up its work early next week.
In addition, along with eight other programs in the 2008 Farm Bill’s Energy Title, REAP does not have mandatory farm bill funding in the budget baseline after FY2012, and as of now is not included for mandatory funding in the new farm bill being written for consideration by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment