The House of Representatives is quickly working its way through bills to fund the federal government for next year. These are BIG bills, but in these BIG bills are individual programs that bring important resources to people and places.
One such program is the Rural Energy for America Program – REAP – which helps farmers and rural small businesses invest in and benefit from energy efficiency improvements and on-site renewable energy. REAP brings much needed savings and important environmental benefits across the country. ELPC has been a champion of REAP from its start in the 2002 Farm Bill. You can learn a bit about REAP and our work here and get more information about the program here.
This year, ELPC led a diverse coalition in sending a letter to Congress in support of robust REAP funding for next year. We called for $50 million in funding as called for in the 2018 Farm Bill, robust discretionary (additional) funding to ensure more farmers and rural businesses would benefit.
But we also urged members of the Appropriations Committee to provide some important direction to the US Department of Agriculture which administers the REAP program. Specifically, our letter asked for the creation a reserve fund to support a diverse set of renewable energy technologies, which farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses want to deploy.
So, we have some good news!
On July 9th, the House Appropriations Committee passed its FY21 Agriculture Appropriations bill that includes:
- Full mandatory funding of $50 million for REAP for FY21; and
- Additional funding of $476,000 to support additional loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Beyond the funding levels (which are important) there are two NEW provisions which reflect the requests we made in our letter and will accelerate important investments in renewable energy.
- There is new language directing USDA to establish a reserve fund to help diversify the range of renewables receiving funding.
- There is also a new pilot program for renewable energy grants of $10 million.
These two provisions together will help fund more renewable energy projects and help a broad set of technologies to get deployed including more small wind and anaerobic digester projects.
Given that the rural economy has been hard hit, saving money on energy through efficiency and producing electricity with wind or solar projects benefits farmers. In addition, through REAP, farmers and rural small business are part of the climate solution. If you are interested in how REAP actually works on a farm, here’s just one example.
The bill now heads to the House floor by the end of the week, and we await action in the Senate. This is a good start.