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Lawmakers take lead in transition to clean energy with legislation to lower costs

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance to farmers, producers and rural small business owners to install renewable energy systems and adopt energy efficiency measures.

REAP has leveraged more than $1.2 billion in public investment since 2021 to stimulate more than twice that amount in private investment, and delivered more than $3.4 billion in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for rural America.

Legislation introduced today by U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and David Valadao of California, as well as U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, will strengthen REAP and lower energy costs. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico is a cosponsor.

“As the Ranking Member of the Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology Subcommittee, I’ve heard America’s producers sing REAP’s praises — and I’ve heard directly from Virginia farmers about the benefits of this commonsense program. However, we need to take more steps to lower costs for our farmers, producers, and rural communities when they’re making smart investments in clean energy and energy storage,” said Spanberger. “That’s why I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to cut red tape and lower energy costs. As the only Virginian on the House Agriculture Committee, I want to thank my colleagues Senator Smith and Congressman Valadao for recognizing the importance of not leaving our rural producers and communities behind as we make investments in America’s economic future.”

The REAP Modernization Act would build on success by increasing the cost share for REAP grants and raising certain grant limits. The bipartisan bill would make it easier for farmers and small businesses to access the program by streamlining the application process and increasing assistance, outreach, and education for farmers and small businesses throughout the application process.

“As a lifelong dairy farmer, I know our farmers and producers are always looking for ways to use new technology to be more efficient and act as responsible stewards of our environment,” Valadao said. “I’m proud to reintroduce the REAP Modernization Act with Representative Spanberger to make this popular program more responsive to the needs of Central Valley communities. This bill makes it easier for rural small businesses and farmers to take advantage of this program and lower their costs by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

A transition to clean energy is happening, according to Smith, but the question is whether we lead or follow.

“I want us to lead. But as we make the switch to cleaner, cheaper energy, we need to make sure everyone benefits. That’s one reason programs like REAP, which helps rural communities install renewable energy systems, are so important. REAP is the flagship program in the Farm Bill Energy Title, and I’m glad to partner with Rep. Spanberger to introduce this bill to help improve this already popular and effective program,” Smith said.

Specifically, the REAP Modernization Act would:

  • Increase the available cost share for REAP grants and the small project grant limit,
  • Streamline the application process,
  • Improve outreach, technical assistance, and education,
  • Allow agricultural producer cooperatives and rural electric cooperatives to apply for financial assistance on a case-by-case basis,
  • Establish a study on dual use of farmland for both energy production and traditional farming,
  • Make reduction of greenhouse gases a more integral part of the REAP program mission, and
  • Establish a reserve fund for underutilized technologies.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.