We are working with the state’s Congressional delegation and the USDA Rural Development agency to implement Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) provisions of the new federal farm bill. ELPC worked successfully to quadruple total funding for the keystone Section 9006 program (now renamed the Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP) and secure major improvements to it. The total funding for REAP is $355 million over four years, which includes $255 million in mandatory funding and $100 million in discretionary funding. REAP now includes dedicated funding for small projects to help family farmers access the program; higher loan guarantee limits to spur sustainable biofuel production and community wind farms; a broader range of eligible applicants, including commercial nurseries and other non-traditional “farms.”
We’ll be hosting workshops across North Dakota to promote the REAP program to farmers, ranchers, small business owners and economic development professionals.
In 2007, we worked with the Dakota Resource Council to investigate the spraying of oil production wastewater on state roads to melt snow and ice–a technique that had been used by North Dakota Department of Transportation for about 40 years. This saltwater brine, which can be ten times as salty as sea water, is a very effective deicing agent. It can also be toxic to plants and wildlife. Our joint research and advocacy led the state to suspend the use of this drilling fluid as a de-icing material. The state is studying the environmental impact of its former de-icing practices, and ELPC is monitoring the situation.