Andy Olsen

Senate Farm Bill: REAP Provisions to Power Rural America

ELPC has advocated for REAP updates to make it more accessible to small operations, simplify applications, and ensure greenhouse gas emissions were considered as part of the program.

On May 1st, the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow released the Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act of 2024, a detailed farm bill proposal that focuses on enhancements to greenhouse gas reductions, protecting IRA investments in Conservation Title programs, and “climate smart” agriculture.  

The current farm bill, which expired in 2023 but was extended through September 2024, is the primary driver of agricultural and food policy in the United States. The Farm Bill has been a staple of U.S. policy for a century. Congress typically passes a new farm bill every five years.    

The Farm Bill is a BIG bill, covering everything from programs to ensure access to food to managing our National Forests.  

ELPC has long focused on the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which was first included in the 2003 Farm Bill to incentivize renewable energy and efficiency investments that provide economic development in rural communities. It has been a leading carbon reduction strategy that also benefits the bottom lines for farmers and rural small businesses. It provides a solid foundation to support U.S. goals for modernizing infrastructure, cutting carbon pollution, and for a clean energy transition. To learn more about REAP and the projects it makes possible, check out ELPC’s REAP Success Stories report.  

ELPC has been advocating for updates to REAP to simplify applications, make it more accessible to small operations, and ensure greenhouse gas pollution was considered as part of the program. We are pleased to see some of these updates included in Chair Stabenow’s Farm Bill proposal.  

Increasing & Extending Funding

REAP is one of the USDA’s top climate solutions programs and, with updates, can be even more effective. The proposal boosts the federal cost share of grants to 50% of project costs, and it doubles the maximum guaranteed loan amount from $25 million to $50 million. The proposal extends funding through 2029 at a mandatory level of $50 million each year. It also increases funding caps for the re-named “Project Development Assistance” grants to support education and outreach.  


  • Expanding scale: By increasing the federal cost share and doubling the maximum loan guarantee amount, the proposal expands funding to support larger-scale projects, increasing its impact. 
  • Ensuring long-term support: The extension of funding through 2029 at a mandatory level of $50 million each year guarantees sustained support for rural energy initiatives, providing stability and predictability for program participants.  

Expanding Equity and Access

Critically, the proposal allocates not less than 25% of total REAP funding for small projects to provide grants of up to $50,000. This ensures that even as the program expands in scale to accommodate larger projects, smaller initiatives will not be crowded out. The proposal introduces a Rebate Pilot Program allows, allowing applicants to apply for REAP after incurring eligible costs outside of the regular application cycle. Furthermore, the proposal designates agricultural producer cooperatives as eligible entities for Project Development Assistance, which extends the program’s reach. 


  • Support for small projects: The set-aside for small projects ensures that the benefits of the program expansion are not skewed to larger ventures. 
  • Expanding access: The Rebate Pilot Program allows for more flexibility by allowing a simpler application after incurring costs, expanding the program’s accessibility. ELPC supports a broader rebate program, but this is progress.  
  • Expanding outreach: By designating agricultural producer cooperatives as eligible entities, the proposal and its impact can use co-op networks to reach more agricultural producers and effectively share information about the program and its benefits. 

Improvements to Education and Outreach

The new proposal increases available funding for Project Development Assistance grants and allows grant funds to be utilized to provide technical assistance, including needed applications assistance for the energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems. As proposed, grant funds could also be used to train individuals to perform energy audits and renewable energy assessments. Moreover, it creates a new Regional Demonstration Project initiative to demonstrate on-farm carbon pollution reduction projects with energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems.  


  • Technical support: Grant funds can now be used to provide application assistance, making it easier for applicants to navigate the process of applying for grants and loan guarantees. 
  • More project development support: Increased funding for Project Development Assistance grants will result in more projects getting off the ground. Experience has shown that such outreach approaches result in more participation and constituents served. 
  • Job training: Grant funds can now be used to train individuals, expanding business opportunities and the pool of professionals capable of performing energy audits and renewable energy assessments in rural communities, where they can be difficult to find.

Reducing Carbon Footprint of Commodities

The proposal addresses the critical role of agriculture in decarbonization and adds reduction in greenhouse gas pollution as a REAP award consideration.  


  • Reducing greenhouse gas pollution: This provision will target REAP funds towards bigger reductions in greenhouse gas pollution, accelerating low carbon technology adoption.  
  • Enhancing market competitiveness: As commodity buyers and consumers increasingly prioritize a lower carbon footprint in their supply chain, agricultural producers adopting these technologies gain a competitive edge in the market. 

The Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act is a promising development for advancing economic and climate security in rural America, and we welcome Senator Stabenow’s proposals. REAP is both popular and successful because it cuts input costs, boosts profits, and advances environmental care with clean energy to strengthen our rural communities. Updating REAP with these new innovations will serve all American agriculture across sectors and size ranges, reach every state, and provide benefits for the entire nation. 

The Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. G.T. Thompson, also issued an outline and text for his vision of a Farm Bill. Unfortunately, this bill falls short on many fronts. Stay tuned for updates as the House and Senate work toward having a 2024 Farm Bill completed. 

Andy Olsen,

Senior Policy Advocate

Andy Olsen is a senior policy advocate at ELPC, leading the Farm Bill Clean Energy and Rural Solar programs.

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