MORGANTOWN — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding grants for projects in 49 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,” Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Bette 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.”
Under today’s announcement, USDA is investing $9.3 million through the Rural Energy for America Program 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.
“The funds awarded through the Rural Energy for America Program will help farmers and small business owners incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Kris Warner. “Supporting West Virginia small businesses, agriculture producers, and rural communities is central to our mission, and REAP will do just that."
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.
Rainbow Head Farms, located in Wallace, will utilize a $14,971 REAP grant to develop a second solar installation for the business operations. Funds will be used to purchase and install a 26-kilowatt solar array on an aquaculture farm facility. This project will replace 32,000 kilowatt per year and is expected to lower the farm’s electricity costs by an estimated $4,000 annually.
Shenandoah Planing Mill, located in Charles Town, will use a $18,441 REAP grant to purchase and install a wood-fired boiler for use in their kiln operation. The company produces a variety of niche wood and building products. This project is expected to replace 100 percent of the building’s energy use and reduce the utility bill by an estimated $42,000 annually. The project will generate 892,694 kilowatt hours of renewable energy per year, which is enough electricity to power 81 homes.
Marasa LLC will utilize a $2,398 REAP grant to make energy efficiency improvements including LED lighting and HVAC system improvements to an existing commercial building near Beckley. A health-care entity currently occupies the space. This project is expected to replace 63 percent of the building’s energy use and reduce the utility bill by more than $4,000 annually.
In April 2017, President 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, Agriculture Secretary Will 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.
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.