Senate Testimony on REAP Benefits for American Agriculture

Friday, October 13th, 2017

The Senate Agriculture Committee recently held a hearing on Rural Development and Energy Programs: Perspectives for the 2018 Farm Bill. Senators heard from USDA staff and rural development experts and got important perspective on the value of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to agriculture and rural America.

Mark Olinyk testifies in front of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee on Energy Issues in the Farm Bill (PRNewsfoto/Harvest Energy Solutions)

Mark Olinyk, President and CEO of Harvest Energy Solutions, based in Jackson, Michigan, shared his direct experience with REAP, which provides incentives to farmers and rural businesses to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Olinyk strongly endorsed REAP and urged the Senate to increase funding for REAP in the next Farm Bill, along with other recommendations.

Olinyk, who has a farming background himself, praised REAP for helping American agriculture; “Put simply, the farmers and small businesses we work with could not afford the renewable energy systems we provide without upfront financing provided through the REAP program.”

Harvest Energy Solutions serves the agricultural community with help from REAP, by providing means to lower and stabilize energy costs: “REAP allows our clients to save electricity, save money, achieve greater efficiencies, and make their operations more stable, less risky, and more profitable,” Olinyk pointed out.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the committee, pointed out that REAP is “consistently over-subscribed with more interest than funding” and asked Mr. Olinyk for his views on this.

Olinyk responded that “the more available REAP money, the more benefit to farmers and businesses. Period. It produces jobs.” “That means more clean, renewable energy, and more jobs and economic growth in rural areas,” said Olinyk.

Benefits to Farmers

Kris Green Farm, Wakeman, Ohio

REAP’s benefits are visible, dependable, and necessary.

Mr. Olinyk emphasized the benefit provided by REAP for farmers, and especially poultry growers, struggling with low commodity prices and high input costs. In some cases he said these farmers are being stretched thin and their continued operation could be in doubt. REAP alleviates increasing energy costs, allowing farmers to concentrate their expenses on improving and expanding agricultural production.

Said Olinyk, “Farmers (who were already making slim margins) are being stretched too thin. REAP grants have allowed them to invest back in to their operations with solar energy, insulation, lighting, and other energy efficiency upgrades.”

Rural Economic Development and Job Growth

Alexander Pork – Promise City, IA

Not only does REAP offer direct financial benefits to farmers, it additionally provides rural economic development by leveraging private investment. Olinyk described a number of projects where the REAP grant made a decisive difference in the investment, providing an economic domino effect that helps the whole community. Studies have shown that REAP has great impact on job creation.

“In total, we have completed hundreds of successful solar and wind installations in the states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In these states we are providing clean, renewable energy while creating economic growth and wealth in rural communities,” said clean energy entrepreneur Mark Olinyk.

Business Opportunities

Tripp Furches – Murray, KY

From farmers in Kentucky to Iowa, REAP’s impact is evident. One example is Tripp Furches, a Kentucky grain operator. Furches was hesitant to build solar on his farm, even though he knew of the long term benefits it would have. As with so many farmers, Furches’ input costs were not going down, but the sale price of his corn was.

Furches secured a renewable energy grant through REAP and was able to build a beautiful, cost-saving solar array on his land.  These fiscal limitations made Furches hesitant to build solar on his farm, even though he knew of the long term benefits it would have. Mr. Furches freed up enough income to expand and diversify his farming operation. In September, 2014, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell visited Furches’ family farm to see this success story first hand.

You can download Mr. Olinyk’s Senate testimony here (PDF).

 

Farm Energy Success Stories, 2014 Edition

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

simplebooklet.com

A new report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) highlights clean energy projects made possible with grants and loan guarantees from the Farm Bill’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). You can read these stories in a variety of ways:

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Mandatory Funding of Clean, Homegrown Energy Absent From Farm Bill Proposal

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The Senate Agriculture Committee released draft Farm Bill proposal on Friday, April 20, that fails to provide any mandatory funding for core clean energy programs that help farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs, create jobs and generate homegrown clean energy. Members are set to begin debate on Wednesday.

The Senate Agriculture Committee draft would inflict steep cuts to programs, including REAP (Rural Energy for America Program), BCAP (Biomass Crop Assistance Program), and Biorefinery Assistance.

These programs have pushed innovative energy development and provide a safety net for farmers. (Click here to learn about the accomplishments of the 2002 and 2008 Energy Title.)

Without mandatory funding for these programs, they will wither, rolling back advances in clean, homegrown energy and placing rural jobs in peril. Contact the committee to demand mandatory funding of the energy title.

In 2011, the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), just one program impacted by proposed cuts:

  • Created or saved 7,000 jobs
  • Cut greenhouse gases by almost 2 million metric tons
  • Saved the equivalent of over 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity
  • Generated $456 million in investments in our communities

“We thank the Senators for including Energy Title programs in the new Farm Bill in the difficult climate they face, especially the leadership from Senators Stabenow, Lugar and Harkin.  We also hope the Agriculture Committee can restore mandatory funding to these core clean energy programs that mean so much to our rural communities and to our nation,” said Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

ELPC Commends Expert Testimony on Farm Bill Clean Energy Programs Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the US Senate Committee on Agriculture heard testimony from a number of expert witnesses in support of clean energy programs in the Farm Bill. Witnesses and Senators alike praised the programs’ positive job creation, environmental protection and rural economic development benefits.

“We commend the experts and Senators who took a stand for homegrown clean energy today,” says Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), a long-time champion of the Farm Bill’s clean energy programs. “Through these programs, America has made unprecedented gains in rural renewable energy and energy efficiency. Congress and the White House should continue this forward momentum.”

Steve Flick, one of the nation’s farm energy entrepreneurs, called for Congressional action to renew and fully fund core Farm Bill clean energy programs, such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the Biorefinery Assistance Program. “America’s farmers, ranchers and rural residents can have a bright future ahead of them with the right incentives,” Flick says. “Renewable energy is the future of rural America.”

Bennie Hutchins of Mississippi provided numerous examples of how REAP has helped agricultural producers and rural small businesses save money and produce income across the South. He shared ELPC analysis showing that REAP produces jobs at a greater than average rate.

“Farm Bill clean energy programs have been an unprecedented success. They have helped farmers reduce their energy bills and energy waste through energy efficiency and accelerated the introduction of modern clean energy technologies into the marketplace,” Olsen says. “Congress and the White House should continue this momentum by renewing and fully funding core Farm Bill clean energy programs.”

Video: Save Farm Energy Programs

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

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