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Vilsack releases renewable energy report


Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack released a report highlighting the ways in which USDA's Rural Energy for America Program contributes to U.S. energy independence and helps rural small businesses and farmers become more energy efficient. He also reminded eligible farmers, ranchers and rural business owners that the deadline to apply for some types of funding this year is approaching.

"Stable energy costs are a prime factor in an employer's decision to expand a business or hire new workers," stated Vilsack. "That is why USDA has partnered with more than 13,000 of America's farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to improve their bottom line by helping them find energy efficient solutions that will spur economic growth and prosperity in rural America."

Vilsack said that for the past three years the REAP program has:

--Supported 5,733 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide;

--Generated or saved an estimated 6.5 million megawatt hours of power;

--Provided $192 million in grants and $165 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements;

--Fostered partnerships that have leveraged an estimated $800 million from other sources.

The REAP program is Rural Development's most successful and competitive renewable energy and energy efficiency program. It was authorized under the 2002 farm bill and is administered by USDA Rural Development. Since the first REAP awards were made in 2003, the program has helped more than 13,000 rural small businesses and agricultural producers, saved enough energy to power nearly 600,000 American homes for a year, and funded more than 1,000 solar projects and more than 560 wind projects. The program provides grants, loan guarantees, and a combination of grants and loan guarantees to rural small businesses and agricultural producers.

Funds may be used to purchase renewable energy systems and to make energy efficiency improvements. The REAP program also provides grants for feasibility studies for renewable systems, energy audits, and renewable energy development assistance for agricultural producers and rural small businesses.

In Kansas, the REAP program has provided $3.6 million in financing over the past three years to assist 113 rural Kansas businesses and agricultural producers to develop renewable energy systems or improve the energy efficiency of a business. An estimated 70,000 megawatt hours of power have been generated or saved through Kansas REAP program projects in the past three years.

"USDA Rural Development has helped rural Kansas businesses and agricultural producers utilize the REAP program to help reduce their energy costs," stated Kansas USDA Rural Development Business Programs Director Karissa Berks. "The REAP program is an important element of financing for those rural Kansas businesses looking to invest in renewable energy or energy efficient units."

While applications for REAP guaranteed loans for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements are being accepted through June 29, applications for REAP grants and loan/grant combinations must be submitted no later than March 30.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $165 billion in affordable loans and loan guarantees. 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.

For additional information regarding this and other USDA Rural Development programs visit the Agency's website www.rurdev.usda.gov/KS, or call the Agency's state office at 785-271-2700.

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