Imagine a future where America is powered by reliable, sustainable and cleaner fuel supplies that also generate good, middle class jobs and ultimately strengthen our economy. At the Department of Agriculture, we can. That future is much closer to reality in part because of the Obama Administration’s investments, which have nearly doubled renewable energy generation from wind, solar and geothermal sources since 2008.
The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption, improve their bottom lines, and help meet the nation’s critical energy needs. This is part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above approach to energy that includes increasing domestic oil and gas production, developing new alternative energy sources and reducing our reliance on oil through energy efficiencies. Building a domestically-produced energy economy will reduce foreign control over our energy supply and prices, and help create jobs for the American middle class.
Since President Obama took office three years ago, USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program in Georgia:
• Supported 220 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects;
• Generated or saved enough power to meet the annual needs of 29,000 households for one year;
• Provided $6,328,000 in grants and $2,752,000 in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural business owners for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements; and
• Fostered partnerships that have leveraged an estimated $19,000,000 from other sources.
USDA Rural Development works with farmers, ranchers and businesses to create jobs and stronger rural communities – and our investments in renewable energy are a great new revenue stream that is strengthening America’s rural economy. USDA Rural Development employees are members of the communities they serve and possess expert knowledge of the challenges and opportunities that exist in their regions.
In Bluffton, Georgia, local USDA Rural Development employees helped Will Harris to install a 30kw solar array at his White Oak Pastures beef processing facility. This green energy is being used by Mr. Harris to offset electrical purchases at his facility, thus lowering his operating expenses. During the first year of operation, the solar panels produced 76,881 kwh of energy, saving an estimated $9,200 in energy costs.
At a time when every dollar counts, investments like the one made by Mr. Harris enable farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses to adjust to fluctuations in energy process. By doing so, it keeps their operations viable, as well as maintaining and creating jobs for rural communities.
We are proud of the progress made through REAP and we look forward to continuing to partner with rural America to secure our energy future and create an economy that is built to last.
To find out more about USDA’s REAP efforts here in Georgia and around the country, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov
Robinson is acting state director for USDA-Rural Development Georgia.