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Views and opinions: Renewable energy funds available for farmers, rural business

By Cody Smith

In July, the USDA announced more than $400 million is available for farmers and rural business owners under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

REAP, a farm bill program, provides financing for energy efficiency upgrades like insulation, lighting, and HVAC systems. Renewable energy systems like solar panels, anaerobic digesters, and wind turbines are also eligible. For both farmers and rural business owners, these systems can help cut energy costs, keeping money in rural economies across the nation.

On the farm, producers could use the funds for electric, solar, or gravity pumps for irrigation pivots, or for switching from diesel to an electric irrigation motor to cut fuel costs.

Another way to cut energy costs on the farm includes the installation of solar panels. Nationwide, the Census of Agriculture found 90,142 farms had solar energy production in 2017, a 60 percent increase from the 36,331 farms reported in the 2012 count.

When consumers install “behind-the-meter” energy generation like solar, they save costs by using energy they produce and getting credits on their bill for the excess energy they send back to the grid; this is known as net metering.

This process is critical for increasing adoption of renewable energy projects nationwide, because it allows consumer-generators to take control of their own energy costs. Net metering empowers farmers, rural business owners, and schools to slash their energy costs, allowing investment in the things that matter.

To apply for REAP funding, call your state’s USDA Rural Development office. Learn more about it online at


Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, nonprofit organization based in Lyons, Neb., working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches and rural communities through action-oriented programs addressing social, economic and environmental issues.