STATE —Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Bette Brand today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding grants for projects in all states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to reduce energy costs for farmers, ag producers and rural-based businesses and institutions.

   “Lowering energy costs helps rural businesses improve their bottom line and create jobs,” Brand said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to increasing economic development in America’s rural communities through strong partnerships because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

   Under today’s announcement, USDA is investing $9.3 million through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the nation. Congress appropriated $50 million for REAP grants and loan guarantees in fiscal year 2019. USDA will make additional funding announcements in the REAP program in coming weeks.

   “Developing renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into rural small business operations helps create jobs and helps America become more energy independent” said USDA Rural Development State Director Curt Coccodrilli.

   Recipients can use REAP funding for a variety of needs, such as conducting energy audits and installing renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar. Funds also can be used to make energy efficiency improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; and lighting and refrigeration. Listed below are a few examples of how farmers, rural business owners and institutions are making investments in their operations through REAP.

   In Pennsylvania:

Dolan’s Welding and Steel Fabrication will use a grant of $17,599 to make energy efficient improvements by retrofitting a welding facility in Johnstown, PA with LED lighting. The 40,000 sq. ft. building will realize $11,046 per year in savings and will save 100,418 kWh of electricity per year (69.8%), which is enough electricity to power 9 homes. In Bedford County, I&S Farms, Inc. received a grant of $15,804 to purchase and install a 30kW roof-mounted solar pv system. The solar panels will be installed on a barn roof that houses sheep and farm equipment for I&S Farms, Inc. located in the rural community of New Paris, PA. This project will realize an energy savings of $5,358 per year in and will replace 43,983 kWh of electricity per year (81%) which is enough electricity to power 4 homes. Wen-Crest Farms LLC, a crop farm owned by Steven Wenger and family that has been in the family for several generations, will use a grant of $19,999 for the purchase and installation of an energy efficient grain dryer. This high efficiency Shivers dryer has a capacity of 1500 bushels per hour with automated controls which will prevent grain from over drying, which is a loss of profit. The new dryer will save 845,587 kWh of propane and electricity and will save the farm $34,182 in energy costs annually and result in more local farms to be serviced in rural Lebanon County.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Supporting the rural workforce was a cornerstone recommendation of the task force.

   To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view theRural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

   USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.