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Chairwoman Stabenow: REAP Crucial to Next Farm Bill

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, recently highlighted the importance of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for energy creation and job growth. In this article, published on June 30, 2011 in the Huron Daily Tribune, she explained how REAP and other Farm Bill energy initiatives are helping farmers and rural small businesses invest in clean energy projects and boosting job creation and employment.
From the Huron Daily Tribune 06/30/2011

Energy production crucial part of Farm Bill

Official Portrait

It may surprise you that Henry Ford was one of Michigan’s greatest agriculture pioneers. Nearly 100 years ago, he knew thatagriculture could be a source of homegrown energy. Ford once told a reporter that “the fuel of the future will come from apples, weeds, and sawdust – almost anything.” Energy production  is an important part of Michigan agriculture. That is recognized by the federal Farm Bill, which is updated ev ery five years. The Farm Bill includes an entire section devoted to energy from agriculture. As the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am focused on writing a new Farm Bill that will help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil and support the work our Michigan producers are doing to become energy independent. Thanks to the work we did in the last Farm Bill, farmers and small business owners across Michigan have taken advantage of new energy  opportunities. They are creating energy from animal waste, installing solar panels and wind turbines, making  plastics from plant sources, and converting crop and forest residue into fuel. Each of these new opportunities also creates jobs for workers who design, build, market, and install these new products, creating a win-win for Michigan’s economy.

One example is Jim Reid, who testified  at our first Farm Bill field hearing  in East Lan sing last month. At our hearing, he spoke about how the last Farm Bill helped him reduce energy costs on his dairy farm in Jeddo, Michigan. That Farm Bill included a program called Rural Energy for America, or REAP, which helps farmers  and small business owners save money on their energy bills.

Mr. Reid used REAP to buy solar panels from Michigan Solar and Wind Power Solutions, a Michigan small business, and installed the panels on the roof of his barn. His energy bills are so much lower that he expects his new solar panels will pay for themselves  in just three years.

And these renewable energy programs  aren’t only for farmers – small business owners across Michigan are also tapping them. Lowell McDonald, who runs a local family-owned grocery store in Huron County, has used the program to cut back on energy bills as well. Since November, McDonald has saved nearly $7,000 on energy costs by installing a heat recovery system. McDonald tapped the innovation and expertise of a local Michigan business to install the system, continuing to support Michigan’s economy and support  local, small businesses.

These are examples of how the Farm Bill turned out to be a win-win for Michigan’s economy. Producers pay lower energy bills, and small businesses  create new jobs by supplying farmers and other business owners with new equipment.

As we move forward on writing the next Farm Bill, I will keep building  on the great strides we have made and realize the potential recognized by Henry Ford more than 100 years ago. By making the right choices, we can help our farmers save money while creating new jobs in every part of Michigan.

Senator Debbie Stabenow is Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.