USDA offers Energy Efficiency, Value Added Producer Grant programs

Champaign, Ill.—Producers and small business owners can start preparing their projects for two of United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) most popular programs—the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program and the Value Added Producer Grant program.

“While Congress continues to work on the final Continuing Resolution for this year’s Agriculture appropriations, the fiscal year is getting shorter,” said Illinois Rural Development Director Doug Wilson. “That suggests a shorter window of opportunity to prepare applications, but there’s still a great opportunity for funding.”

Applicants may end up with as little as 60 days to prepare and submit their projects to USDA Rural Development. “Applications guidelines have not yet been published, but a lot can still be done,” said Wilson.

The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program can help farmers and small businesses finance renewable energy systems or make energy improvements. Eligible renewable energy projects include systems that generate energy from wind, solar, biomass or geothermal sources. Renewable energy projects can include the generation of electricity, heat, fuels or hydrogen.

The program is not just for energy-producing projects—such as biofuel plants, anaerobic digesters and geothermal systems—but can also be used for energy-efficiency improvements to existing energy systems or to update systems such as grain dryers, electric motors, heating and cooling.

A grant can be awarded for up to 25 percent of the cost of the project and loan guarantees for up to 50 percent of the project costs.

Renewable energy applicants can start reviewing the previous year’s procedures by clicking on the program rule at The requirements and guidelines can help the applicants prepare for a 2007 application.

Now is the time to work on the technical report for a renewable energy project or have the energy audit completed for an energy efficiency application.

Independent producers or producer groups are eligible to apply for Value Added Producer Grants for proposals that add value to commodities. Over the six years of the program, Rural Development has awarded value-added grants for Illinois projects dealing with biofuels, identity-preserved grain, composting, high-value wool, branded beef, wine and pork processing.

Grants are available for planning and working capital. More information about what will probably be needed is available at

Value-Added applicants who want to apply for working capital can use this time to secure a feasibility study and prepare a business plan.

“Preparation for a value-added planning grant doesn’t require as much up-front work, but, as with all of these programs, applicants need to make an assessment of all the components and resources they will need to make their projects—and their grant applications—successful,” said Wilson.

Looking at previous grant requirements is valuable, but applicants must be sure they use this year’s rules when preparing their proposals.

Rural Development will notify interested people as soon as the rules are published. To get on the notification list, send your e-mail address to or call (217) 403-6210.

From the March 7-13, 2007, issue

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