Sen. Smith, Rep. Spanberger Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Strengthen Popular Program to Lower Energy Costs, Expand Clean Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill to strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). A version of the bill was introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and David Valadao (R-CA-22).

REAP provides financial assistance to farmers, producers, and rural small business owners to install renewable energy systems and adopt energy efficiency measures. Since 2021, REAP has leveraged more than $1.2 billion in public investment to stimulate more than twice that amount in private investment — delivering more than $3.4 billion in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for rural America.

The REAP Modernization Act would build on this success by increasing the cost share for REAP grants and raising certain grant limits. Additionally, the bipartisan bill would make it easier for farmers and small businesses to access the program by streamlining the application process and increasing assistance, outreach, and education for farmers and small businesses throughout the application process.

“The clean energy transition is happening, the question is whether we lead or follow. I want us to lead,” said Smith. “But as we make the switch to cleaner, cheaper energy, we need to make sure everyone benefits. That’s one reason programs like REAP, which helps rural communities install renewable energy systems, are so important. REAP is the flagship program in the Farm Bill Energy Title, and I’m glad to partner with Representatives Spanberger and Valadao to introduce this bill to help improve this already popular and effective program.”

“As the Ranking Member of the Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology Subcommittee, I’ve heard America’s producers sing REAP’s praises — and I’ve heard directly from Virginia farmers about the benefits of this commonsense program. However, we need to take more steps to lower costs for our farmers, producers, and rural communities when they’re making smart investments in clean energy and energy storage,” said Spanberger. “That’s why I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to cut red tape and lower energy costs. As the only Virginian on the House Agriculture Committee, I want to thank my colleagues Senator Smith and Congressman Valadao for recognizing the importance of not leaving our rural producers and communities behind as we make investments in America’s economic future.”

“As a lifelong dairy farmer, I know our farmers and producers are always looking for ways to use new technology to be more efficient and act as responsible stewards of our environment,” said Valadao. “I’m proud to reintroduce the REAP Modernization Act with Representative Spanberger to make this popular program more responsive to the needs of Central Valley communities. This bill makes it easier for rural small businesses and farmers to take advantage of this program and lower their costs by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

The REAP Modernization Act is endorsed by the National Milk Producers Federation, National Farmers Union, Agriculture Energy Coalition, Environmental Defense Fund, Organic Valley, Environmental Law and Policy Center, and Nature Conservancy. The bipartisan bill is also endorsed by the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance — which includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Credit Council, American Sugar Alliance, American Soybean Association, Minnesota Farm Bureau, California Farm Bureau Federation, Ducks Unlimited, and dozens of additional agriculture, forestry, and climate-focused organizations.

“USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program supports dairy producers who seek to install renewable energy systems, including methane digesters which use manure and other organic wastes to produce baseload electricity and give dairy farmers a unique environmental stewardship opportunity. We commend Representatives Abigail Spanberger, D-VA, and David Valadao, R-CA, as well as Senator Tina Smith, D-MN, for reintroducing the REAP Modernization Act. This bipartisan bill strengthens REAP by establishing a reserve fund for under-used technologies like methane digesters and improving cooperative eligibility under this important program,” said Jim Mulhern, President & CEO, National Milk Producers Federation.

“National Farmers Union supports the REAP Modernization Act to strengthen and improve the Rural Energy for America Program. REAP has supported the voluntary adoption of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements on farms, ranches, and for rural small businesses across the country. This bill will provide a foundation for continued investment in renewable energy for rural communities that is good for the economy and the climate,” said Rob Larew, President, National Farmers Union.

“The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has a demonstrated track record supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. FACA thanks Representatives Spanberger (D-VA) and Valadao (R-CA) as well as Senator Smith (D-MN) for introducing the REAP Modernization Act, which will streamline the program’s application process and improve technical assistance and outreach for interested applicants. Wider adoption of renewable energy systems will boost energy savings and deliver climate benefits to rural America,” said the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance.

“The Ag Energy Coalition is deeply grateful to and lauds Senator Smith, Representatives Spanberger and Valadao for this important bi-partisan legislation. The USDA REAP program is an essential component of the agriculture and rural economy. Modernizing the popular program in the 2023 Farm Bill will make it easier, and quicker, for farmers and rural small businesses to save money and improve their bottom lines, while bolstering the environment and public health, and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change,” said Lloyd Ritter, Director, Agriculture Energy Coalition. 

“Because of the historic, bipartisan investments in rural and agricultural climate solutions, REAP has never been better positioned to help farmers reduce costs and build a safer climate future. We are glad to see Sen. Smith and Rep. Spanberger introducing the REAP Modernization Act to enact necessary changes to the program that will help stabilize the climate, make REAP dollars more accessible for farmers, improve energy grid resilience and ensure that REAP funding is equitable,” said Elizabeth Gore, Senior Vice President for Political Affairs, Environmental Defense Fund.

Specifically, the REAP Modernization Act would:

  1. Increase the available cost share for REAP grants and the small project grant limit,
  2. Streamline the application process,
  3. Improve outreach, technical assistance, and education,
  4. Allow agricultural producer cooperatives and rural electric cooperatives to apply for financial assistance on a case-by-case basis,
  5. Establish a study on dual use of farmland for both energy production and traditional farming,
  6. Make reduction of greenhouse gases a more integral part of the REAP program mission, and
  7. Establish a reserve fund for underutilized technologies.

You can read more about the bill here.