WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger — Chair of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee — joined U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) in leading the introduction of a bipartisan, bicameral bill aimed at improving the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
REAP provides financial assistance to farmers, producers, and rural business owners to install renewable energy systems and adopt cutting-edge energy efficiency measures. In the last six years alone, REAP has leveraged more than $300 million in public investment to stimulate more than 10 times that amount in private investment — and it has delivered more than $4 billion in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects across rural America. However, demand for the program chronically far exceeds available funds at USDA.
Spanberger’s REAP Improvement Act would expand REAP eligibility to include agricultural producers cooperatives and rural electric cooperatives, and it would help meet high demand for the program by increasing available cost share for REAP grants, streamlining the application process, and strengthening investments in the REAP program by an average of $250 million per year over 10 years.
“As Chair of the House Agriculture Committee’s Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, I remain committed to finding new ways to protect the health of our land while also improving farmers’ bottom lines. In this moment marked by the rising threat of climate change and extreme weather conditions, we should take commonsense steps to provide family farms across our country with greater opportunities to build on their existing efforts to combat the climate crisis,” said Spanberger. “I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan, bicameral effort to strengthen support for our farmers and producers through the REAP program. The REAP Improvement Act would reduce the financial burdens faced by farmers, producers, and rural small businesses as they make smart investments in clean energy, energy storage, and other cutting-edge technologies — and it would significantly cut down the existing backlog of REAP projects at USDA. I would like to thank Senator Smith for her leadership on this issue in the U.S. Senate, and I look forward to making sure our rural producers and communities are not left behind as we build a healthier climate and invest in a strong economy in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.”
“Renewable energy is rural energy. The clean energy transition is key to improving and sustaining economic vitality in rural communities. We need new clean programs, but we also need to get more from our existing programs,” said Smith. “Take REAP for example. We know this is a popular and effective program, which is why I’m glad to partner with Rep. Spanberger to introduce this bill to improve and increase funding for REAP. The Energy Title of the Farm Bill incentivizes farmers to install renewable energy systems on their farms, and REAP is the flagship of the Energy Title. I’m also pushing for programs like REAP to play a part in the climate and infrastructure package that we must pass this summer.”
The legislation is also backed by U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) in the U.S. Senate and U.S. Representative David G. Valadao (R-CA-21) in the U.S. House.
“Farming and ranching communities should be supported and empowered to be on the front line of deploying clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency in our transition to a clean energy economy. This legislation will provide opportunities for New Mexico farmers and ranchers, including those experiencing drought, to make up for needed revenues,” said Luján. “I look forward to working with Senator Smith and Representative Spanberger to advance this legislation for our rural communities.”
“As a lifelong dairy farmer, I believe we must act as responsible stewards of our environment, and the farming community is actively implementing technology to do just that,” said Valadao. “I’m proud to introduce the REAP Improvement Act with Representative Abigail Spanberger. This bill would make significant reforms to improve USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program. This legislation would help more farmers and producers voluntarily take advantage of this program that helps them invest in clean energy and energy efficiency.”
The REAP Improvement Act would also improve outreach and technical assistance to farmers and small businesses, as well as establish a reserve fund for underused energy technologies.
Spanberger’s legislation is endorsed by the National Milk Producers Federation, the Agriculture Energy Coalition, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Organic Valley.
Click here for the bill text, and click here for a summary of the bill.