WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the department is providing $62.5 million in loans and grants for 705 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in 45 states and Puerto Rico under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), an important initiative to help rebuild and revitalize rural America.

"President Obama and I are committed to helping rural businesses become more energy efficient - it's good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for the workers and customers who depend on the goods and services these businesses provide," Vilsack said. "While the REAP grants will continue to provide an important jump start to a clean, renewable energy future, Congress must act to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to create the green jobs our economy needs and get our nation on the path to being truly energy independent."

Renewable energy funding from USDA has helped many rural businesses. For example, Meadowbrook Acres Inc. of Milton, Vt., used a $4,148 USDA grant to install a reverse osmosis system in fall 2007. The system has been operating well and has already saved Meadowbrook 3,884 gallons of fuel oil while producing 1,011 gallons of maple syrup. A reverse osmosis system takes water out of the maple sap, which reduces boiling time during the syrup production.

For this round of funding, USDA has selected Michael Satterstrom, in Cottage Grove, Ore., for a $13,380 grant to install a solar photovoltaic system at his farm. The system will generate 8,400 kilowatts of electricity and reduce the farm's energy usage by nearly 60 percent annually.

In Newton, Kan., WK Real Estate LLC has been selected for a $3,670 grant to install new energy efficient lighting. This project highlights the fact that replacing existing lighting with energy efficient lighting is one of the easiest measures businesses can take to reduce their utility bills. Rural Development's grant will enable WK Real Estate to lower its electric bill by more than 50 percent.

REAP loan guarantees and grants can be used for renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements, feasibility studies and energy audits. Funding of each recipient is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement.