Ag Blogs -
Friday, 04 May 2012 18:16
By Patty Clark, State Director
USDA Rural Development
Imagine a future where America is powered by reliable, sustainable and cleaner fuel supplies that also generate new, middle-class jobs and ultimately strengthen our economy. At the United States Department of Agriculture, we can and do imagine such a future. That future is much closer to reality in part because of the Obama Administration’s investments, which have nearly doubled renewable energy generation from wind, solar and geothermal sources since 2008, while simultaneously increasing domestic oil and gas production to the highest level in recent history.
The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption, improve their bottom lines, and help meet the nation's critical, and growing, energy needs. This is part of President Obama’s “all-of-the-above approach” to energy that includes increasing domestic oil and gas production, developing new alternative energy sources and reducing our reliance on imported oil through energy efficiencies. Building a domestically-produced energy economy will reduce foreign control over our energy supply and prices, and help create jobs for the American middle class.
Since President Obama took office three years ago, USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program in Kansas has:
· Supported 113 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects;
· Generated or saved enough power to meet the annual needs of 6,133 households;
· Provided $2.6 million in grants and $1 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural business owners for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements; and
· Fostered partnerships that have leveraged an estimated $6.4 million from other sources.
USDA Rural Development works with farmers, ranchers and businesses to create jobs and stronger rural communities – and our investments in renewable energy are a great new revenue stream that is strengthening America’s rural economy. USDA Rural Development employees are members of the communities they serve and possess expert knowledge of the challenges and opportunities that exist in their regions.
In Belvue, Kan., local USDA Rural Development employees helped Kansas Hardwoods receive financing through the Renewable Energy for America Program to install a geothermal heat pump and wood-gasification unit to heat and cool the new Kansas Hardwoods building. Financing provided by USDA Rural Development provided this small business with capital, which allowed it to increase production by building a climate controlled facility that is energy efficient. Kansas Hardwoods sells local and domestic woods and wood products.
At a time when every dollar counts, investments like the one made by Kansas Hardwoods, enable farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses to adjust to fluctuations in the energy process. By doing so, it keeps their operations viable, as well as maintaining and creating jobs for rural communities.
Last month, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced $5 million in financing for an anaerobic digester at the Western Plains Energy ethanol plant in Oakley. Waste energy resources from a local cattle feedlot will be utilized to replace almost 90 percent of the fossil fuels currently used by Western Plains Energy. Western Plains expects to produce more than 100 BTU’s of renewable energy per hour each day once the digester is operational. Through a renewable energy source, the fossil fuel previously used by the facility, is available for other uses by residential and commercial customers while making the ethanol plant operations more cost efficient over time. The project is expected to create 15 full-time positions and almost 100 additional construction opportunities. Why, as a nation, wouldn’t we want to create more economic opportunities such as this?
Financing for the digester was made possible through USDA Rural Development’s Repowering Assistance Program, which was authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill. This program is helping to revitalize rural communities, and decrease our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
We are proud of the progress made through USDA Rural Development’s energy programs, and we look forward to continuing to partner with rural America to secure our energy future and create an economy that is built to last.
To find out more about USDA’s Renewable energy efforts here in Kansas and around the country, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov.