USDA makes funding available for rural renewable energy development

On January 20, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to make more funding available to facilitate renewable energy use in the agricultural industry.

In 2008, Congress passed the Food, Conservation and Energy Act also known as the Farm Bill, which featured provisions for renewable energy that promised funding increases by 2012. President Barack Obama asked for 80 percent of America's electricity to come from clean sources by 2035, a goal he believes can be achieved with help from the rural development energy programs featured on the bill, according to the USDA's website.

One of those initiatives is the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which helps agricultural manufacturers and small businesses invest in renewable, clean energy. Since REAP went into effect, agricultural producers and rural businesses all over the country have experienced overwhelming success. In Illinois alone, 290 agricultural producers and small rural enterprises have received support through the program the USDA stated in a press release.

"We have seen remarkable results in energy savings in rural Illinois," USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Callahan said in the release. "Our applicants have installed solar panels, geothermal systems, wind turbines and manure digesters. Others have upgraded equipment to more energy efficient models. All these awardees are experiencing energy savings of at least 30 percent."

The USDA has approximately $25.4 million allotted to fund REAP projects in 2012, which will support no less than $12.5 million in grants and about $48.5 million in guaranteed loans. Applications for a combination of loans and grants must be submitted by March 30, and applications for loans only will be accepted until June 29.

To learn more about the USDA and its energy programs, visit its website here

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