Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the award of $17,510,887 in Section 9006 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program Grants to 375 recipients in 36 states recently. The grant program compliments the Bush Administration’s overall effort to increase America’s energy independence through the development of renewable energy resources as well as improving efficiency of existing systems.

”These grants will directly promote energy savings and increased energy production in rural America,” Johanns said. “The Bush Administration is committed to providing more energy from within our nation’s borders, especially here in America’s agricultural heartland and these grants will help accomplish this goal.”

The 2002 farm bill authorized the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements program. Recipients of the funding include agricultural producers or rural small businesses, U.S. citizens or legal residents that have demonstrated financial need. Rural Development grant funds can be used to pay up to 25 percent of the eligible project costs. Additionally, the program provides loan guarantees up to $10 million to fund up to 50 percent of eligible projects. Over $4.6 million in federal funds has been allocated in loan guarantees and grants under the program earlier this year.

Eligible projects include those that derive energy from a wind, solar, biomass, or geothermal source, or hydrogen derived from biomass or water using wind, solar, or geothermal energy sources. Awards are made on a competitive basis for the purchase of renewable energy systems and to make energy improvements.

Many of the projects announced today will increase energy efficiency or produce renewable energy. For example, Energique Inc. of Woodbine, Iowa, will receive a grant of $31,444 to purchase and install a geothermal heating and cooling system to provide energy savings of up to 60 percent. In Pennsylvania, Brubaker Farms of Mount Joy will receive a $223,249 grant to install an anaerobic complete mix digester which will use farm waste to increase farm revenue through energy production. The Rural Development grant leverages funding from the applicant and a $600,000 Energy Harvest Grant from the State of Pennsylvania.

States receiving funding are Alaska, Ala., Ariz., Calif., Colo., Fla., Hawaii, Iowa, Ida., Ill., Ind., Kan., Mass., Maine, Mich., Minn., Mo., Miss., Mont., N.C., N.D., Neb., N.H., N.J., N.Y., Ohio, Okla., Ore., Pa., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Vt., Wis., W.Va., and Wyo. Since 2003 when the program was established, USDA has provided $87.3 million in grants and $34.3 million in loan guarantees to 844 applicants.

Secretary Johanns and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman will co-host a national renewable energy conference to help create partnerships and strategies necessary to accelerate commercialization of renewable energy industries and distribution systems, a key component of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative. The conference, Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance, is scheduled for Oct.10-12, 2006, in St. Louis, Missouri.

USDA Rural Development’s mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. As a venture capital entity, Rural Development has invested more than $72 billion since the beginning of the Bush Administration to provide equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure. As a result, more than 1.2 million jobs have been created or saved through these investments. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA’s web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov. Additional information about the Advancing Renewable Energy Conference is available at http://www.AdvancingRenewableEnergy.com USDA News at oc.news@usda.gov