United States Secretary of Agriculture
This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced more than 630 new projects across the country under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). These new projects will help producers and businesses boost their bottom line while increasing America’s energy security and protecting our environment.
Energy efficiency programs are a key part of the President’s overall plan to mitigate the impacts of a changing a while building our renewable energy capacity to support an all-of-the-above approach to America’s energy future.
Under the Obama Administration, USDA has used this program to support more than 7,000 energy efficiency projects. Many of these provided assistance on small and medium-sized farm and ranches, or in rural businesses.
For example, USDA is providing a grant to a producer in Oklahoma who will leverage significant outside investment to install two 100kW wind turbines. A grant in Washington will enable an orchard owner to install a solar hot water washing tank to clean apples for market. And in Wisconsin, REAP will help a producer install an anaerobic digester that will create more than 4.8 million kWh of electricity a year while boosting environmental quality.
This program is a very good example of why Congress must achieve passage of a comprehensive, multi-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible.
In January, Congress provided an extension of some 2008 Farm Bill programs when there was no Congressional passage of a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Now, in just a few weeks, that extension will expire – once again leaving rural America without access to Farm Bill programs.
USDA relies on the Farm Bill to carry out the Rural Energy for America Program and many other important efforts. Without a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, rural America will be without energy efficiency programs. America’s farmers and ranchers will be without a strong safety net and important conservation programs. We will lack trade programs to promote U.S. products, and the ability to invest in strong agricultural research. These are just a few of many examples.
This is too important for Congress to kick the can down the road with another short-term extension. We need the certainty of a comprehensive, long-term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. USDA and folks across rural America are counting on Congress to advance this legislation as soon as possible.
Tom Vilsack is the United States Secretary of Agriculture.