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Millions Now Available for Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Development

October 6, 2015

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), a farm bill energy title program, is open for applicants at any time, but application cut-off dates are announced annually. For fiscal year (FY) 2016, the dates range from November 2, 2015 to May 2, 2016, and in limited cases into the summer of 2016, as detailed below and in the Federal Register of October 6, 2015.

REAP provides two types of funding assistance — grants and guaranteed loans for renewable energy production and energy efficiency improvements for farms and rural small businesses, and grants for energy audits and renewable energy planning and development made to service providers who work with farmers and rural small businesses.

Each year the farm bill makes available $50 million for REAP, an amount sometimes supplemented and/or cut during the annual appropriations process (see more below). In August 2015, USDA announced $63 million in awards using both farm bill and discretionary dollars. If Congress does not cut farm bill funding for FY 2016, USDA will be able to make approximately 1,000 awards in FY 2016.

Wind, solar, biomass, digesters, and geothermal are among the energy systems that can be funded by REAP.

For complete information on REAP see our NSAC Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs as well as USDA’s REAP website.

Application and Deadlines

Grants and Guaranteed Loans for Renewable Energy Production and Energy Efficiency Improvements

  • For farms or small businesses seeking renewable energy or energy efficiency improvement grants for which the requested amount is less than $20,000, there are two batching deadlines: 4:30pm local time on November 2, 2015 and 4:30pm local time on May 2, 2016.
  • For larger grants and for requests for a combination of a grant and a guaranteed loan, the deadline is 4:30pm local time on May 2, 2016.
  • For farms and small businesses seeking a federal guarantee of a private loan but no grant, there is a rolling deadline of the first business day of each month, starting with the first month when at least eight applications have been received.

Grants for Energy Audits and Renewable Energy Planning and Development

  • For those who provide energy audit and energy development planning services, the deadline for those grants is 4:30pm local time on February 1, 2016.

For detailed information about the application process, read the Federal Register notice or contact the USDA Rural Development Energy Coordinator for your state. In some cases, applicants must submit a hard copy application to their State Energy Coordinator. In other cases, applications may be submitted online via grants.gov. All applicants must register through the System for Award Management (SAM) and must obtain a Dun and Bradstreet Universal Number System (DUNS) number.

Status of Appropriations

Congress is currently debating funding levels for REAP and other key programs for the remainder of 2016 fiscal year, which began on October 1. On the final day of the 2015 fiscal year, Congress passed a 10-week extension of FY 2015 funding levels. FY 2016 funding levels must now be finalized by December 11 to avoid a government shutdown.

Funding for REAP comes primarily from the Farm Bill through “mandatory,” also known as “direct,” spending. The 2014 Farm Bill provides $50 million for REAP in FY 2016. Mandatory funding is not under the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committees in Congress.

However, in recent years, appropriators have used a backdoor budget maneuver called Changes in Mandatory Program Spending (CHIMPS) to raid farm bill mandatory funding. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed agriculture appropriations bills for FY 2016 earlier this spring and summer. Fortunately, the Senate bill leaves REAP’s mandatory funding intact. However, the House bill uses CHIMPS to cut REAP funding by 30 percent, from $50 million to $35 million.

As Congress works to finalize appropriations legislation for FY 2016 ahead of the December 11 deadline, we will be urging members of the Appropriations Committees to refrain from cutting mandatory funding for REAP.

Categories: Budget and Appropriations, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs, Rural Development

One response to “Millions Now Available for Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Development”

  1. […] USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) offers farms and rural small businesses both grants and guaranteed loans for renewable […]