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On Earth Day, USDA Invests $487 Million in Rural Water, Energy, and Biofuel Infrastructure

Vipin Saini
Vipin Saini
Agriculture News
Electric infrastructure

In honor of Earth Day 2021, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Justin Maxson announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $487 million in critical infrastructure that will help communities in 45 states build back better and stronger while prioritizing climate-smart solutions and environmental stewardship. USDA is making the investments under the Water and Environmental Program, the Rural Energy for America Program, the Electric Loan Program and the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program.

“When we invest in accessible and modern climate-smart infrastructure in rural communities, we invest in rebuilding the middle class by creating good-paying jobs,” Maxson said. “The investments we are announcing today demonstrate how the Biden-Harris Administration has put rural communities at the heart of climate action and climate-smart solutions.”

Highlights of investments:

Rural Water and Wastewater Infrastructure:

USDA is investing $374 million through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program to modernize rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in 31 states. Through its Water and Environmental Programs, USDA funds vital water infrastructure that directly benefits the health, economic vitality and environment of rural America.

For example, the city of Dunn, N.C., will use a $1.4 million loan and a $1.2 million grant to repair or replace 9,135 feet of sewer collection line, 42 manholes and 134 pipes. These modernizations will stop sewer system overflows, which will lead to cleaner rural water resources in the area and support a healthier environment for nearly 10,000 local residents.

Renewable Energy in Rural Communities:

USDA is investing $78 million in renewable energy infrastructure in 30 states through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This program helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. Projects financed under this program can help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that affects our climate.

For example, in Iowa, Textile Brewery LLC will use a $20,000 grant to purchase and install a 38-kilowatt (kW) solar array. This project will save the company nearly $20,000 in electricity costs and will replace 50 percent of the electricity it uses each year.

Rural Electric Infrastructure Upgrades:

USDA is investing $17.4 million in loans in New Mexico and South Dakota through the Electric Loan Program to build and improve rural electric infrastructure and connect residents to affordable and dependable power. The Electric Loan Program brings efficient, modern electric infrastructure to rural communities and finances wind, solar, natural gas and clean energy production. The program also provides loans to electric utilities to support vegetation management, which helps prevent forest fires.

For example, in South Dakota, Charles Mix Electric will use an $8.6 million loan to build 84 miles of electric line and construct a headquarters facility. Charles Mix Electric serves approximately 2,500 rural consumers over 1,310 miles of line.

Biofuel Infrastructure:

USDA is investing $18.4 million in 20 states through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) to build infrastructure to help expand the availability of higher-blend renewable fuels by approximately 218 million gallons per year. This will give consumers more environmentally-friendly fuel choices when they fill-up at the pump.

For example, in Georgia, RC Bells Inc. will use a $130,500 grant to replace four dispensers and a storage tank at a fueling station in Acworth. The infrastructure supported by this investment will expand the use of renewable fuels by approximately 420,000 gallons per year.

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