Rural farm funds announced

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reports that USDA has selected 450 projects totalling $7.4 million in Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant funding nationwide, including 13 projects in California, that are focused on helping agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy consumption and costs and use renewable energy technologies in their operation.

In California, projects total $260,000. They include energy efficiency improvements at Hoogendam Dairy in Merced ($13,959) Delano Growers Grape Products in Delano ($16,738) and Pacific Rim Dairy in Tipton ($32,393).

Funding is also available to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. The grants are authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.

"The Obama Administration and USDA are helping agricultural producers and rural small business owners reduce their energy costs and consumption – and by doing so is helping to create jobs, preserve our natural resources, protect the environment and strengthen the bottom line for businesses," Vilsack said in a conference call Monday with reporters. "This is part of the Administration's ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. Stable energy costs create an environment for sustainable job growth in rural America."

Vilsack made the announcement while touring Metrolina Greenhouses, a family-owned plant and services company in Huntersville, NC, that has received a REAP guaranteed loan and three grants totaling over $1 million since 2007.

Vilsack said project funding includes $412,304 for grants to 20 agricultural producers and rural businesses to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems. For example, in Washington, Port Angles Hardwood, LLC., has been selected to receive a grant to study the feasibility of installing a woody biomass co-generation system.

REAP offers funds for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other funding sources for businesses.