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USDA announces $446 million to fund ag, business renewable projects

This money is not tied to the Infrastructure Bill.

The USDA today announced that its handing out $464 million to farm operations and other businesses to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure and to help rural communities lower energy costs in 48 states and Puerto Rico.

The governmental agency will pull $129 million from the Rural Energy for America Program to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.

Meanwhile, $335 million of funding will come out of the Electric Loan Program.

Monies coming out of the Rural Energy for America Program will be funding what is being called climate-smart projects.

"These climate-smart investments will conserve and generate more than 379 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in rural America, which equates to enough electricity to power 35,677 homes per year," according to a USDA press release.
The loans from the Electric Loan Program will help build or improve 1,432 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas, according to the USDA. The loans include $102 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.

The projects receiving funding range from building more efficient grain drying facilities to improving city wastewater treatment plants.

In North Dakota, Red Trail Energy LLC will use a $25 million loan to build a carbon-capture processing and storage facility at an ethanol manufacturing facility. The project will provide a 40-50% reduction in the carbon intensity score of ethanol the company produces. It also will enable the company to distribute ethanol to low-carbon fuel standard markets.

Prairie State Solar, LLC will use a $95 million loan to construct a 99 megawatt solar photovoltaic farm on 621 acres in Perry County, Ill., about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Thursday that none of this funding is dependent on whether the proposed Infrastructure bill is passed by Congress.

"These projects are funded by our normal budget allocation passed by Congress. These announcements, like today's, come as we end the fiscal year and begin a new one," Secretary Vilsack says.

Vilsack added, "Having said that, based on how the Infrastructure bill is passed, it will determine how we fund more of these type of projects in the future and whether we have the resources to do it."

The department is announcing investments today in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming and Puerto Rico.

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