Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is awarding loans and grants that will help more than 1,100 rural small businesses and agricultural producers reduce energy usage and costs in their operations. The funding is for energy efficiency improvements and/or renewable energy systems. USDA is financing projects in every state, as well as in the Virgin Islands, the Western Pacific and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

"More rural business owners and ag producers are incorporating energy-saving measures into their business plans," Vilsack said. "These actions improve an operation's bottom line and help reduce its carbon footprint. This funding will help incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology and reduce energy costs. But beyond the local benefits seen by a company saving energy costs and the global benefits of reducing carbon emissions, this funding will also create American jobs by supporting energy production and efficiency installations that are made in rural America."

USDA is providing $102 million in loan guarantees and $71 million in grants for 1,114 projects financed through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Among the projects, nearly $6 million is being awarded for 17 anaerobic digesters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington. In total, these projects are expected to generate and/or save 906 million kilowatt hours (KWh) of energy – enough to power more than 83,675 homes for a year and cut carbon pollution by an estimated 455,000 metric tons. That is the equivalent of taking more than 131,500 cars off the road for a year.

The owners of Parker Farms in Ripley, Tenn., are receiving a $45,000 REAP grant to help finance the installation of a 50 kilowatt solar system that was installed late last year. The system has lowered the grain farm's average monthly electric bill by $800 – from $1,140 to $340. That is a savings of nearly $10,000 a year. The solar system covers more than 70 percent of the farm's annual electric costs. Parker Farms participates in the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Green Power Providers program and sells 100 percent of its solar electricity to TVA at a premium.

Fresh Air Energy XVI, LLC is receiving a $3.8 million loan guarantee to finance a 6.5 megawatt solar array in Greene County, North Carolina. The project is expected to produce enough energy to power 1,000 average-sized homes for a year. This is one of several loans the company is receiving to expand the use of solar energy in the state.

In Pearl City, Hawaii, the owner of the wholesale bakery "The Patisserie, Inc." is being awarded a $256,000 loan guarantee and a $128,000 grant to install a photovoltaic system. It is expected to generate 172,000 kilowatts of energy annually and reduce energy use by nearly 40 percent.

Congress created the REAP program in the 2002 Farm Bill. Because of the success of the program, Congress reauthorized it in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of at least $50 million annually for the duration of the five-year bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past seven years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.

Since the start of the Obama Administration, REAP has helped finance 10,753 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that have reduced energy costs for rural businesses nationwide. During this period, USDA has provided almost $360 million in grants and $430 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners. When operational, these projects will generate/save an estimated 8.4 million megawatt hours – enough to power more than 760,000 homes for a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That's the equivalent of removing more than 1 million cars from the road.

Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.

In addition to the grants announced today, USDA is reminding eligible recipients that the department is accepting applications for future REAP funding. For application deadlines and details on how to apply, contact a USDA state energy coordinator, or see page 60349 of the October 6 Federal Register.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.