Aug 30, 2015

USDA $63 Million Renewable Energy Grants

Ever since it was given an official budget thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, we've been wondering about the Rural Energy for America Program, usually known by the ag-friendly acronym REAP.

This past week, USDA secretary Tom Vilsack officially announced the allocation of $63 million in loans and grants to a whopping 264 projects under the program, so we get to see some specifics about where this money is going.

REAP is designed to provide funds, through grants and sometimes loan financing specifically to smaller farmers in rural environments. It's interesting because it specifically targets those agricultural producers in remote areas, and provides funding for all kinds of alternative-energy projects including renewable energy systems like solar and wind generation, anaerobic digesters, biodiesel or ethanol facilities, hydropower, and that kind of thing.

But also, very helpfully, it will provide funding for basic improvements that align with the need to lower energy consumption like better lighting, cooling, heating, insulation, sealing, pumps, and all other upgrades that aren't as sexy as solar panels (and boy are solar panels sexy) but could have a huge impact just the same.

The announcement shows us a few specific areas where REAP funding will be going. They include a solar system on a fruit farm (mostly apple and pear orchards) in Ohio, a wind farm in North Carolina, and, interestingly, $16,094 (what a specific number!) to install solar panels on the roofs of chicken coops on a farm in Georgia.

REAP isn't the kind of legislation that garners huge headlines, but it's an important one: real money going to solve real problems in small farms. You can read more about it here.

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