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Vilsack announces $464M renewable energy infrastructure investment

STOCK PHOTO: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack virtually addresses the NAFB.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Thursday announced that USDA is investing $464 million to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure across the country.

In a conference call with farm reporters, Vilsack said these USDA projects will help rural communities, Ag producers, and businesses lower energy costs in 48 states and Puerto Rico. Iowa is one of the states included in the investment.

“Climate-smart infrastructure can lower energy costs for rural small businesses and farming operations,” said Vilsack. “It can also spur economic development, which can support jobs, and provide the opportunity for lower electric rates, which obviously makes it easier to attract new businesses. That’s why these announcements today are a continuation of USDA’s investment in climate-smart infrastructure.”

USDA is financing $129 million of these investments through the Rural Energy for America Program. This program provides funding to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.

“The combination of these renewable energy projects and energy efficiency projects,” said Vilsack, “will essentially save the equivalent of 379 million kilowatt hours of electricity, which is enough to fuel and take care of the needs of over 35,000 homes.”

The Department of Agriculture is also financing $335 million of these investments through the Electric Loan Program. The loans will help build or improve 1,432 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas. 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.

To learn more about these and other resources for rural areas, contact a USDA Rural Development state office.

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