Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems.

The funding announced is being provided through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Investments from programs like REAP help support the true engine of America’s economic growth, a thriving middle class.

REAP funding has helped farmers expand renewable energy use in recent years. The new Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms using renewable energy production has doubled in the last 5 years.

More than 57,000 farms reported using a renewable energy system in 2012, while 23,451 operations reported doing so in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63 percent of renewable energy systems on farms, with 36,331 farms reporting their use.

Created by the 2008 Farm Bill, REAP was reauthorized by the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill. For fiscal year (FY) 2014, USDA plans to award up to $12.3 million in grants and $57.8 million in loan guarantees.

Additional REAP funds provided by the Farm Bill will be made available with a subsequent notice.

USDA is accepting applications for the following.
  • Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantee and grant combinations;
  • Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantees; and
  • Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grants.
Requests for grants may not exceed 25 percent of a project’s cost, either for stand-alone grant requests or for grants combined with loan guarantees.

Since the start of the Obama Administration, REAP has supported more than 8,200 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide. During this period, USDA has provided more than $264 million in grants and $212 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners.

Cozy Acres Greenhouse in North Yarmouth, Maine, used a $48,750 REAP grant to help offset the cost of installing a solar and geothermal system in new greenhouses.

Owners Jeff and Marianne Marstaller needed to expand their greenhouse operations and were determined to do so in a cost-effective and energy-efficient way. They teamed up with USDA Rural Development to fund a geothermal system to provide heat for the greenhouses and solar photovoltaic panels that help offset their electricity needs.

The greenhouses were completed in fall 2013. The Marstallers plan to market their locally grown herbs and vegetables to area restaurants and farmers markets.

The Little Farmer, LLC in Malone, received a $10,002 REAP grant to assist in the purchase of an 11 kW roof mount solar PV system. The solar PV system will produce more than 14,000 kWh annually, saving more than $2,000 a year. The long-range plan of the farm is to be 100 percent self-sustainable. The Little Farmer is an apple-pumpkin farm that is open to the public. The business has more than 50,000 visitors during their peak 6-week growing season.

For more information, visit