Joel Olson (left), President of O2 Energies, Inc. of North Carolina speaks with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff in front of one of O2's solar projects. O2 worked with local North Carolina lender Surrey Bank & Trust and USDA Rural Development to finance the project.
USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP as we call it, is one of the flagship programs found in the energy title of the Farm Bill. Through REAP, USDA helps rural agricultural producers and small businesses improve their financial bottom line through increased energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources.
We wanted to share two great examples of this investment and development in North Carolina. In Mt. Airy, NC, local lenders took advantage of REAP’s loan guarantees to finance O2 Energies and build a solar farm that can provide up to 20% of the power needed by the community. Read more »
USDA Works with Families to Realize Their Dreams of Homeownership infographic. Click to enlarge
Five years ago, Christy Carr seemed like a long shot as a future homeowner. She was a newly divorced, unemployed mom of five, and her credit score was in the 300’s. The home she shared with her children had no heat, no electricity and no running water. A neighbor let Christy run an extension cord to his garage outlet just so that the family could keep the lights on. Since they had no car and only a cooler to keep their food cold, they walked to the store three times a day.
In order to rebuild her life, Christy had to find work and clean up her credit score. After many interviews, Christy was offered a good job at a marketing company. She was able to move into an apartment but it was too small to house all of her children, and her older sons had to stay with another family member. At the same time, Christy brought her student loans out of default and paid off old marital debts. After 18 months, her credit score had risen by 300 points, and she was able to open a credit card secured through her bank. Read more »
House Builders Create Homes, Housing Creates Jobs. Click to enlarge.
When one thinks about home, they often think about warm meals on the dinner table, cozying up on the couch, painting the nursery, or even building equity in a place one calls their own. When I think housing- especially new housing: I also think opportunity; I think jobs.
Jobs come from laying foundations, installing windows, and making sure faucets pour water and lights shine bright. Most importantly, jobs go home at the end of the shift, and gather at that dinner table knowing local economies are improving. We have had 75 straight months of private-sector job growth in America, and the housing sector has played its part. Read more »
Rural families become homeowners. Click to enlarge.
It’s been 25 years since USDA guaranteed the first home loan in Donalsonville, Georgia. The home itself was a modest spot nestled into the tiny little village in rural Georgia. To an outsider this home may look non-descript, but to the family who moved in 25 years ago, owning this home was a dream that seemed impossible before they found out USDA and their small town lender could work together to make their dream become reality.
25 years later, USDA has worked with thousands of lenders big and small to help 1.48 million families just like the first in Donalsonville buy modest homes in rural America. USDA Home Loan Guarantees are so important to hard working folks who want to settle down in rural areas. This program is the golden example of the private and public sectors coming together to make this opportunities for a better life accessible for all. Read more »
New recruits in the battle against climate change.
California has a pioneering spirit. Rural folks there have been on the frontier for generations. That frontier may have been gold mines and cattle grasslands in the past, but today that frontier is the very air, soil and water of California itself. Climate change is transforming California like it’s transforming our globe. But Californians are leading the pioneer charge to transform, with pragmatism, ingenuity and a commitment to rural communities.
Just recently, I visited a small dairy farm in Elk Grove, California, the site of an anaerobic digester. Case Van Steyn’s operation of around 700 cows produces manure, and the Maas Energy digester, secluded in an unobtrusive red shipping container, uses the manure to produce methane. That methane creates enough electricity to power 125 homes—and enough to sell electricity back to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, or SMUD. Read more »
Today, USDA Rural Development is investing in smart grid and broadband to empower rural communities with state-of-the-art infrastructure for a more reliable and efficient electricity grid, like this investment in New Mexico.
May 20, 2016 is the 80th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. The REA was created to bring electricity to farms. In 1936, nearly 90 percent of farms lacked electric power because the costs to get electricity to rural areas were prohibitive.
REA funding and the hard work of Rural Electric Cooperatives transformed agriculture and life in rural America into productivity and prosperity. Thanks to hard work and REA loans, by 1950 close to 80 percent of U.S. farms had electric service. Since then, generations have heard the stories about “the night the lights came on,” a significant date for farm families. Read more »