Sen. Franken Introduces Legislation to Help Farms, Rural Businesses Cut Energy Costs
Bill Would Reauthorize, Improve Rural Energy for America Program
Today, in an effort to cut energy costs for Minnesota's farmers and rural small businesses, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced legislation that would reauthorize and improve the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This important program helps agriculture producers and businesses in rural areas invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects so they can cut energy bills and earn additional income through energy sales. High energy costs were among the pressing issues raised during Sen. Franken’s Farm Bill Outreach tour in February.
"Farms and other rural businesses in Minnesota and across the country support millions of jobs and feed people all over the world – but they need a lot of energy to do so," said Sen. Franken. "The Rural Energy for America Program helps rural businesses make high-tech investments, create jobs, and reduce dependence on foreign oil – all while saving farmers money. My legislation will reauthorize REAP and make it easier for more farmers and businesses to access the program."
More information on the Rural Energy for America Program, which Sen. Franken introduced with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), is available below. Sen. Franken hopes to include his legislation in the Reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Reauthorization Act
What is REAP? The Rural Energy for America Program helps farmers and small businesses save money and earn new income by providing assistance for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The program offers grants and loan guarantees directly to agricultural producers of all types and rural small businesses to help them install renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, as well as conduct feasibility studies. The program also provides grants to entities that can provide energy auditing and energy development services to rural farmers and businesses.
Major benefits of the program include:
- Improving producer margins by cutting energy bills or producing energy on--site.
- Directly benefitting agriculture producers of all types in all states with support for diverse and modern technologies.
- Helping farmers diversify and increase income through energy sales.
- Developing local economies through new jobs for system development, installation, operation and maintenance.
What does the REAP Reauthorization Bill do? There is strong consensus among farmers and rural business owners on improvements to the REAP program. In addition to some smaller tweaks to the program, the bill’s topline provisions include:
- Reauthorizing REAP Program: In these tough economic times the bill ensures that this important program receives adequate funding to support energy projects across rural areas of America.
- Simplifying the Application Process: The bill simplifies applications for small projects, creating a three--tiered application system with application simplicity reflecting the size of the project.
- Cutting Burdensome and Costly Regulation: The bill eliminates the USDA’s “two-- meter rule,” which currently requires farmers to install a second meter for residential use that goes unread. This rule has levied heavy costs on farmers, and once removed by this bill will allow more farmers to benefit from REAP funding.
- Strengthening Environmental and Health Provisions: The bill requires the USDA to include stronger environmental and health aspects in its award considerations.
- Expanding Start-Up Support: The bill strengthens funding for feasibility studies so that rural farmers and businesses can start projects with sound planning.