Biomass Magazine: USDA REAP sinks $3.4 billion into rural economies

Though the USDA Rural Energy for America Program has been hugely successful since it was first implemented in the 2002 Farm Bill, numerous changes have been implemented over the years in order to maximize program value.

To date, the program has put over $3.4 billion into rural economies, according to Anthony Crooks, USDA energy specialist.

During a webinar sponsored by the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Crooks provided an overview of REAP, identified program changes for 2014 and 2015, and emphasized the significant benefits the program has had on ag producers, small rural businesses and the bioenergy supply chain.

REAP is currently funded with $50 million in mandatory funding annually, Crooks said, to provide grants, guaranteed loans and combination grant/guaranteed loans. “If funds are not exhausted for a respective year, they roll over to the next,” he said,  adding that annual funds are divvied up between 47 state offices, and dollars that are not used up in each respective state are pooled and used for one final round of funding.

Though REAP has specific program funding windows, applications are accepted year-round, and funding is awarded on a competitive bases. “[REAP] will not pay for anything you’ve done prior to submitting an application,” Crooks advised.

REAP grants and guarantees may be used individually or in combination to finance up to 75 percent of a project’s total cost. Grants cannot finance more than 25 percent of a project or $500,000, whichever is less. Loan guarantees must be a minimum of $5,000, not to exceed $25 million.

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