Two Lebanon County businesses will benefit from a USDA investment of $5.69 million into more than two dozen renewable energy projects in Pennsylvania.

It’s all part of a broader program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced late last month would pump $124 million into 541 renewable energy and fertilizer production projects in 44 states to reduce energy costs, generate new income and create jobs for U.S. farmers, ranchers, agricultural producers and rural small businesses.

Vilsack announced the grants during a visit to Nebraska on March 28. According to a release from the USDA, the program is part of a Biden-Harris initiative investing in rural communities nationwide.

“Most of the projects announced today are being funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the nation’s largest-ever investment in combating the climate crisis, through the Rural Energy for America Program,” or REAP, the release explains. “In total, this funding advances the President’s Investing in America agenda to grow the nation’s economy from the middle out and bottom up by increasing competition in agricultural markets, lowering costs and expanding clean energy.”

Bob Morgan, the USDA’s state director for Rural Development, said in a separate release that the funding in Pennsylvania would be shared among 31 projects in 12 counties.

Local recipients of the grants are:

  • Martin’s Auto Repair in Myerstown, $59,000 – to purchase and install a 75.33 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. The project is expected to save the business approximately $7,800 each year and will replace 75,642 kilowatt hours per year, which – according to the release – “is enough energy to power six homes.”
  • Daryl Sensening of Newmanstown, $55,458 – to purchase and install a 110.4 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. The project is expected to save his egg farming operation approximately 108,301 kilowatt hours per year, which “is enough energy to power nine homes.”

Since 2021, USDA’s Rural Development program has invested $38.8 million in 334 renewable energy projects, according to Morgan’s release. Through the REAP program, USDA provides grants and loans to help ag producers and rural small business owners expand their use of wind, solar and other forms of clean energy and make energy efficiency improvements.

REAP is part of Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which set a goal to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. Since Biden took office, USDA has invested more than $1.8 billion through REAP in over 6,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements nationwide.

USDA continues to accept REAP applications and will hold funding competitions quarterly through Sept. 30.

“Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is committed to ensuring farmers, ranchers and small businesses are directly benefitting from both a clean energy economy and a strong U.S. supply chain,” Vilsack said in a statement. These investments, he added, “will expand access to renewable energy systems and domestic fertilizer, all while creating good-paying jobs and saving people money that they can then invest back into their businesses and communities.”

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