USDA Helps Louisiana Farmers, Ag Producers, and Businesses Cut Energy Costs

By Dr. Carrie Castille, Louisiana Director, USDA Rural Development

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Many small rural businesses and agricultural producers know that energy use can take a big bite out of their operating budgets. But they may not know about a USDA program called REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) that can help them cut high energy costs. And money saved can be used to grow the business, including hiring more workers, or adding it to their profits.  

REAP is available for farmers, agricultural producers, and rural small businesses to improve their bottom line by reducing energy costs. Congress created this national program in the 2002 Farm Bill and reauthorized it in the 2018 Farm Bill. The program helps increase U.S. energy independence by expanding the private-sector supply of renewable energy.

The REAP program provides grants for for-profit entities of up to 25 percent of project cost, or loan guarantees up to 75 percent of the project cost. 

Grants can be used to fund energy audits, feasibility studies, business plans, purchase and installation of renewable energy systems, and solar panels. Funds can also be used to make irrigation well improvements-- including conversion of a diesel engine to an electric motor; pump improvements, replacing ventilation systems; purchasing grain dryers; switching to LED lighting; or other energy saving improvements such as replacing leaky doors and windows and inefficient and outdated HVAC and cooling systems. This type of support is designed to help farmers, agricultural producers and rural small businesses lower expenses through more efficient use of energy. Doing so can help increase their profits or provide additional funds to reinvest into the business.

In Fiscal Year 2018, Rural Development invested $694,687 in grants and loan guarantees and funded 23 projects throughout Louisiana for renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements, feasibility studies, energy audits, and renewable energy development assistance.  

So far, in Fiscal Year 2019, Rural Development funded 27 projects and obligated $430,716 to help sustain jobs and support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Most of these applicants have seen a 30-40 percent reduction in energy related expenses.

Here’s how some REAP funding recipients here in Louisiana will use their grant:

·      In Napoleonville, Game Equipment will use a $12,935 grant to install LED lighting throughout the building to lower utility costs for their operation. The company builds tractors and sugar cane loaders.

·      Kevin Whiteside Farms, in Dubach, received a $32,629 grant to make energy-efficiency improvements by installing heating, ventilation, and automation equipment to six poultry houses. This project will lower energy costs and reduce energy use.

·      Bayou Shrimp Processors, a food production company in Delcambre, manufactures frozen packaged fish. They received a $14,319 grant to upgrade a commercial facility with LED lighting to reduce energy consumption and save money.

 

Since its creation, REAP has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and loan guarantees to fund thousands of renewable energy projects across America. The program helps promote economic development and job growth by supporting a wide range of energy‐related projects to reduce consumption and costs for agricultural producers and rural small businesses and increases access to local energy generated within the United States.  

Moving forward, USDA Rural Development’s team here in Louisiana will continue to spread the word about this important program and keep working alongside our rice, poultry, livestock, and other farmers and small businesses to help them save energy, strengthen operations, create jobs and help improve the quality of life in our rural communities. 

To learn more about the Rural Energy for America Program, or to let us know how we can best serve your needs, please contact me at carrie.castille@la.usda.gov or (318) 473-7921.