Press Release

Welch Introduces Bill to Improve REAP Program for Small Farms and Businesses and Make it More Climate-Friendly

Nov 30, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, introduced theRural Energy Equity Act to improve and authorize strong funding levels for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The bill would make REAP more accessible for smaller rural businesses and farms and make the program more climate-friendly. 

“Farmers and small businesses in Vermont want to be part of the transition to renewable, green energy, and we can help them accomplish this by tailoring key programs to meet their unique needs,” said Sen. Welch. “My Rural Energy Equity Act works to further support Vermont’s farms and small- and medium-sized businesses by increasing federal cost shares for all projects, including those carried out by underserved producers and business owners, and simplifying the application process for smaller projects. The bill also helps better integrate and prioritize carbon reduction into the program, and helps farmers decrease energy costs.”  

“The Agriculture Energy Coalition applauds Chairman Welch for the introduction of the Rural Energy Equity Act. REAP is an incredibly popular program with farmers, small businesses and rural communities for good reason – it helps save money via renewable energy deployment or energy efficiency improvements, while benefiting the environment. And with the policy improvements and innovations in this legislation REAP will be even more impactful. The Coalition is particularly pleased to see support for under-utilized technologies, greater cost-share support and project development assistance, as well as a higher loan guarantee for renewable distributed generation,” said Lloyd Ritter, Coalition Director. 

“This bill would simplify the process for farms, ranches, and other rural small businesses to receive federal support for energy-saving and renewable energy technologies. It would expand cost-sharing funding for capital investments that will lower operating costs and reduce climate impacts. That’s a win-win,” said Alexander Ratner, Federal Policy Manager for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. 

“We thank Senator Welch for the innovative ‘Rural Energy Equity Act of 2023’ that better serves smaller operations and projects, improves education and outreach, and enables more farmers and rural small businesses to cut costs along with their carbon footprint.” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate, Environmental Law & Policy Center. 

“We are hearing increased interest from dairy farmers wanting to do renewable energy.  These improvements in the Rural Energy for America Program that Senator Peter Welch is leading are right on point. Adjusting the cost share to 50 percent and increasing the maximum costs covered for smaller projects, makes it more attractive and impactful for family farmers. If we want every dairy farmer in America to have an opportunity to reduce energy costs and improve their on-farm resiliency, this type of policy is going to be part of how we get there,” said Adam Warthesen, Senior Director of Government & Industry Affairs for Organic Valley. 

“Senator Welch’s Rural Energy Equity Act will strengthen and improve the already successful Rural Energy for America Program. National Farmers Union stands in support of this bill which offers improved program access and delivery while providing farm and ranch communities with affordable and effective ways of addressing climate change,” said Rob Larew, President of the National Farmers Union

The REAP program provides guaranteed loan financing and grants to farmers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. For example, farmers could apply for funding to buy more efficient processing equipment, weatherize a barn, or install a solar array on their land. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which Sen. Welch supported as a Member of the House of Representatives, appropriated $1.17 billion for REAP and made some programmatic changes to the program. 

The Rural Energy Equity Act would help smaller businesses and farmers by simplifying applications for grants and loans under $200,000, improving USDA scoring for smaller and medium-sized projects, increasing the federal cost share to 50% for all projects grants and 75% for projects grants going to underserved producers, and increasing the amount of funding that can be used for project development. The bill would also improve climate outcomes of the program by integrating renewable energy and energy efficiency project development assistance and by naming carbon footprint reduction as a key goal of project development assistance and regional development projects. 

The Rural Energy Equity Act is endorsed by Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC), American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), California Climate and Action Network (CalCAN), Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), Encore Renewable Energy, Environment Policy and Law Center (EPLC), National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), National Farmers Union (NFU), National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), New England Farmers Union, Organic Valley, Rural Energy Vermont, and Vermont Dairy Producers Alliance (VDPA). 

Read more on the Rural Energy Equity Act here

Read the full text of the bill here