USDA's Rural Energy for America Program is offering $61 million in loan guarantees and $42 million in grants for farm or agribusiness projects that reduce energy costs. And the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board will host an Annapolis meeting on May 24 to help interested parties prepare to apply.
REAP is designed to help ag producers and small businesses. MBPUB backs the program because a large portion of this round of funding is intended for the installation of retail flexible fuel pumps, equipment, and further retrofitting to dispense E85 and other lower blends of ethanol for vehicles.
However, the funds also can help develop renewable energy on-farm systems, make energy efficiency improvements, and conduct energy audits and studies to determine renewable energy project feasibility.
Sunnyside Farms, near Westminster, Md., is an example of how farmers can use substantially cut costs of renewable energy installations. Last October, the farm inaugurated its new solar energy field. A REAP grant cut its cost by 25%. For more details, catch the page 22 feature story in April's American Agriculturist, or click on
http://magissues.farmprogress.com/AMA/AM04Apr11/ama022.pdf for the online page.
Pushing for E85 pumps
USDA plans to help install 10,000 Flex-Fuel pumps over the next five years. "This is a proactive step towards decreasing our dependency on foreign oil and non-renewable fossil fuel," says Lynne Hoot, MGPA's executive director. "Oil fluctuates in price rapidly, so changing to biofuels helps buffer that change. Estimates are that gas would be 50 to 60 cents higher per gallon if ethanol were not in the market."
"The Baltimore-Washington metro area has one of the highest concentrations of FlexFuel vehicles in the United States. We'd like to see Maryland retailers and our farmers take advantage of this market and funding opportunity. We are willing to help make it happen," continues Hoot. "We have experienced staff available to assist interested parties in preparing the necessary documentation to apply."
To learn more and ask questions of USDA program managers, plan to attend the May 24 meeting at the Maryland Energy Administration, 60 West Street, Suite 300, Annapolis, MD. It runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch will be provided.
The deadline for submitting a REAP application for renewable energy systems is June 15. Feasibility studies, energy audits, and renewable energy development assistance must be submitted by June 30. For more information, contact Jill Hamilton at 703-322-4484.