Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has helped 512 rural small businesses and farmers install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
On Tuesday, April 10, about 40 of those farmers and small business owners gathered in Mankato, Minn., to discuss the REAP program during a roundtable featuring Senator Al Franken and USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer.
A couple of participants also shared success stories. Andrea Christoffer from Federated Rural Electric Cooperative highlighted how her co-op has used several REAP grants to install a geo-thermal system, a wind turbine, and help area small businesses reduce energy consumption and cut costs after energy audits.
Wayne Knewtson of Knewtson Soy Products discussed the increase in production and energy efficiency in his operations after he used a REAP grant to purchase a new grain dryer.
“We can do a lot just by using the energy that’s right in our backyard,” Landkamer said during the roundtable. “Rural energy results in rural jobs.”
The program has been extremely popular in Minnesota since its creation in the 2002 Farm Bill. A total of 674 projects have received funding in Minnesota since 2003.
Roundtable participants shared several ideas on how to improve and strengthen REAP. Examples included making it easier for smaller firms to access funds, making application dates and funding levels uniform each year and eliminating some paperwork for small-scale projects.
To find out more about how the Rural Energy for America Program can help reduce the cost of energy on your farm, ranch or small business, click here.