• Brandon Colvin

REAP offers grants and loans to reduce energy costs for rural small businesses

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a notice calling for new applications to the agency’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Created under the 2014 Farm Bill and reauthorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, REAP is seeking applicants for Fiscal Year 2021 funding.

According to the notice, REAP offers grants and loans aimed at helping “agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption.” The program is particularly focused on renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement.

Applicants seeking to fund Alabama-based projects through the program may enjoy a slight edge, given the fact that 54 of the state’s 67 counties are considered rural. The Farmenergy.gov website has posted a list of frequently asked questions about REAP clarifying the program’s definition of “rural”, and answering other common queries.

The Federal Register has published the eligibility requirements, program details, and the scoring system that will be used to evaluate applications. Potential program participants should be aware that a REAP application cannot be submitted without pre-registering with the System for Award Management (SAM) and obtaining a DUNS (Data Universal Number System) number.

Recipients can utilize REAP funding for a broad range of needs. Past funding projects have included a rooftop solar panels for a rural bookseller, a fuel-efficiency propane kiln for a logging company, and a large solar array for a an organic farming operation. In the official release, USDA also encouraged applicants to consider the recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.

The program has enjoyed vocal support at the federal level from President Donald Trump and former Georgia governor and current United States Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue. Last year, USDA invested $9.3 million into REAP, adding to the Congressional appropriation of $50 million for the program in 2018.

Although USDA accepts guaranteed loan applications for rural development projects year round, the REAP funding is specific and has its own parameters. Grant deadlines for REAP are February 1, 2021 and March 31, 2021. The grant and loan applications can be accessed here.

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