Last week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced U.S. Department of Agriculture grants for 900 farmers and small agricultural businesses to implement renewable energy programs. During his tenure as Agriculture Secretary, Vilsack has promoted green energy and environmentalism. His Agriculture Department has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to increase environmental stewardship and has been a vocal advocate of renewable energy, from solar power to ethanol production.
These grants are another step towards a greener future. Part of a 2008 Farm Bill initiative, the Rural Energy for America Program offers money to farmers and ranchers, as well as small agricultural businesses, to purchase renewable energy systems and make green investments.
These USDA grants have very tangible results for American farmers. In Yuba City, California, Alves-Minton farms, which implemented renewable energy programs thanks to funding provided by the USDA, has seen a dramatic drop in their energy costs. Installing wind turbines has helped cut their energy costs by 90 percent.
In Princeville, Illinois, Kraft Fertilizer, Inc. will use a $13,000 grant to install a geothermal water heating system that will replace their current furnaces and will use only about 9 percent of the BTUs of the current system.
These green programs are an important part of the current American agricultural industry. Faced with long-term sustainability problems (according to reports from the National Research Council), the installation of renewable energy systems will help guarantee the agricultural sector a more sustainable future. In addition to long-term goals, renewable energy systems will help struggling farmers reduce out of control energy costs. While the future of these, and other agricultural programs, in uncertain, it is vital that Congress continue to fund agricultural funding.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer