Park Rapids Enterprise Staff
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded grant and loan funding to Minnesota totaling $22,140,048 to help farmers and rural businesses reduce energy costs through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
Grants totaling $1,109,430 have been awarded to 32 Minnesota projects, and loans totaling $21,030,618 have been awarded to four Minnesota projects.
Minnesota recipients can use REAP grants to install renewable energy systems like biofuels or power generation from wind, solar or biomass, and make energy efficiency improvements. Funds can also be used on energy storage projects and energy audits.
“Farmers and small businesses in rural communities often face higher energy costs due to low population densities and the need for long transmission lines,” Klobuchar says. “These Rural Energy for America Program grants and loans will improve access to reliable low-cost energy options and help Minnesotans reduce their energy costs with new renewable energy systems and energy efficiency upgrades.”
“I fought to protect and expand REAP funding in both the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills,” she said, “because the program helps drive rural economic development, increases the productivity and efficiency of farmers and small businesses, and expands the use of renewable energy.”
“I’ve visited the The Haubenschild Dairy Family Farm in Princeton, which deploys a waste-to-energy biodigester to cut costs, encourage homegrown energy and help keep their operation strong,” said Smith. “I led the effort in last year’s Farm Bill to strengthen REAP, because I want to see more of this happening around the state.”
Smith noted, “Minnesota leads the nation in using REAP funding because our state’s farmers, ranchers and rural businesses know that it cuts costs, creates jobs and strengthens their communities.”
The 2018 Farm Bill included several of Klobuchar’s priorities, including provisions to create an animal disease vaccine bank and disaster response program, provide more coverage and more flexible tools for dairy producers and protect REAP funding.
The 2018 Farm Bill also included measures championed by Sen. Smith, including many aspects of her legislative roadmap for the energy section of the Farm Bill, to help spur economic development, job creation and trade. It includes mandatory funding for the Biobased Markets Program, the Biorefinery Assistance Program, the Biomass Research and Development Program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuel and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
The Farm Bill also increases funding for REAP and makes additional technologies eligible for the REAP funding that Sen. Smith pushed for.