Grants to help farmers and ranchers with energy audits, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects
Farmers, ranchers, and other rural small businesses have until July 31, 2009 to apply for grants or loan guarantees to assist with energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)—(Section 9007 of the 2008 Farm Bill, formerly Section 9006 under the 2002 Farm Bill). REAP will provide funds to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to conduct energy audits and feasibility studies for renewable energy systems, for renewable energy development assistance, and to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.
Farmers and ranchers who earn 50 percent or more of their gross income from agricultural operations are eligible along with small businesses in rural areas and some rural electric cooperatives. Energy efficiency projects can include retrofitting, replacing, or purchasing lighting and insulation to reduce energy consumption. Energy projects can include wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower or other renewable sources. Projects cannot be used for any residential purpose.
“We're trying to create strong rural communities,” stated Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, in a C-SPAN Washington Journal interview on May 28, 2009. “There is tremendous potential both in the biofuels area as well as in the wind, solar, renewable energy area for resurgence in those smaller and mid-sized operations. It's important for us to continue to invest in biofuels and renewable energy to provide additional income sources for the use of land. As we talk about the clean energy future of this country with climate change, I think they'll be other potential opportunities for income for our farm families.”
The grants are awarded on a competitive basis and can be up to 25% of total eligible project costs. Grants are limited to $50,000 for renewable energy feasibility studies. Grants are limited to $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements. Grant requests as low as $2,500 for renewable energy systems and $1,500 for energy efficiency improvements will be considered. At least 20% of the grant funds awarded must be for grants of $20,000 or less.
Detailed descriptions of the program provisions, application instructions, and USDA Rural Development State Office contacts are available in the Federal Register Notice (Vol. 74, No. 99, Tuesday, May 26, 2009). Information including a useful B&I/REAP comparison chart for loans and grants is available in the REAP/RES/EEI Annoucenment on the USDA web site.
Synopses, forms, and online application systems are available at the Grants.gov web site: