The USDA is seeking applications from eligible intermediaries to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers reduce energy costs and consumption. Funding is provided to conduct energy audits and provide renewable energy development assistance.
"This program promotes efficient use of energy which can help curb our dependence on fossil fuels," Vilsack says. "In keeping with the Obama administration's effort to create a clean energy economy, these audits will enable owners of rural businesses, farms and ranches to better monitor their energy usage and take steps to reduce consumption."
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, is making available $2.4 million for fiscal year 2010 for energy audits. The funds are provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill).
The farm bill allows agricultural producers or rural small business to recover up to three-quarters of the cost of an energy audit. Audit funds are not provided directly to an eligible producer but are allocated instead to an intermediary. The intermediary provides funds to the audit recipient. Eligible intermediaries for energy audit grants include state, tribal, or local government entities; land-grant colleges and universities and other institutions of higher education, including 1994 Land Grant Colleges (Tribal Colleges), 1890 Land Grant Colleges and Historically Black Universities; rural electric cooperatives; and public power entities.
Rural Development is accepting applications for this program until July 26, 2010. For more information on how to apply, please see the May 27, 2010 Federal Register. To learn more about USDA's REAP and other renewable energy programs, please visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_ReapEaReda.html.
The Rural Development program is similar to a separate energy audit program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Through their Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), NRCS provides audits to improve milk cooling efficiency, irrigation pumping, heating and cooling of livestock production facilities, manure collection and transfer, grain drying, and similar common on-farm activities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of 6,100 employees located in the nation's capital and 500 state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $138 billion in loans and loan guarantees.