WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently invited agricultural producers and rural small businesses to apply for loans and grants to implement renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.
USDA is providing funding for up to $61 million in guaranteed loans and $42 million in grants through the Rural Energy for America Program.
Funds are available to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses develop renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements and conduct studies to determine the feasibility of renewable energy systems.
USDA issued a rule to clarify that the definition of renewable energy systems in REAP includes flexible fuel pumps, sometimes referred to as blender pumps. This clarification is intended to provide fuel station owners with incentives to install flexible fuel pumps that will offer Americans more renewable energy options.
The Obama administration has set a goal of installing 10,000 flexible fuel pumps nationwide within 5 years.
The rule also makes the following clarifications:
• Grants are available for audits of energy improvements and studies to determine the feasibility of renewable energy systems; and
• Agricultural producers in non-rural areas are eligible for REAP assistance. Small businesses must still be located in rural areas.
This clarification makes REAP eligibility requirements consistent with those of other USDA energy programs.
Since Rural Development’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs were launched in 2003, they have played a key role in helping more than 6,000 local businesses create jobs and make energy efficiency improvements.
Under REAP, local businesses receive assistance to deploy wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy.
The deadlines for submitting completed REAP applications are June 15 and June 30, depending on the type of project to be funded
For information on how to apply for assistance, contact your local USDA Rural Development office or see page 20943 of the April 14 Federal Register, http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011-8456.pdf. A list of USDA offices is available at www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html.