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Minnesota producers awarded $2.2M in energy efficiency grants and loans

Doreen Anderson of Willmar selects a sack full of onions from a vendor's trailer full of vegetables at the farmers market Aug. 28 in the Westside Liquor parking lot in Willmar. The market is open again today and each Saturday morning during the growing season. U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show the number of farmers markets in Minnesota has increased since last year. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be providing $23.4 million in loans and grants for 186 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide.

Included in this funding an-nouncement were 21 Minnesota producers that will be receiving nearly $2.2 million in grants and loans. Of the 21 Minnesota projects that received funding, 20 were for the replacement of inefficient grain dryers and one was for the installation of a wind turbine.

The loans and grants are being provided under the Rural Energy for America Program, which is administered by USDA's Rural Development.

The program is designed to assist farmers that are able to demonstrate a financial need. Agricultural producers who receive 50 percent or more of their gross income from agriculture are eligible to apply.

Small businesses that are located in rural areas, including rural electric cooperatives, may also be eligible to apply.

Most rural projects that reduce energy use and result in savings for the agricultural producer or small business are eligible as energy efficiency projects. Examples would include retrofitting lighting or insulation, or purchasing and replacing an old or inefficient grain dryer with a more energy efficient model.

USDA's energy efficiency programs typically yield double-digit energy savings.

Grants are awarded on a competitive basis and can be up to 25 percent of the total eligible project costs. Grants are limited to $500,000 for renewable energy systems, and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements.

Grant requests as low as $2,500 for renewable energy systems and $1,500 for energy efficiency improvements will be considered.

At least 20 percent of the grant funds awarded must be for grants of $20,000 or less.

To learn more about the Rural Energy for America Program, agricultural producers and small rural business owners should call: 507-373-7960 or 507-372-7784.

AgrAbility grants

assist farmers

with disabilities

Officials from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture recently announced that it had awarded 23 grants to land grant universities for the purpose of assisting farmers with physical disabilities through the AgrAbility program. Grant recipients included the University of Minnesota, which received $176,903 in funding.

Each year, the AgrAbility program provides hundreds of disabled people with assistance in overcoming barriers that will allow them to continue their chosen professions in agriculture.

The need for such assistance is great as every year, more than 80,000 farmers and agricultural workers are so severely injured at work that their ability to perform their jobs has become limited.

In addition to educating professionals on how to assist those with disabilities, funding is also available to make the necessary modifications to existing farm equipment that will allow a disabled producer to safely access or operate the equipment.

Since initial funding in 1991, USDA has awarded grants to more than 30 states resulting in on-farm assistance to more than 12,000 farmers, while also educating thousands of professionals on how to accommodate agricultural producers and workers with disabilities.

For more information, visit:

Number of farmers markets in Minnesota

up 61 percent from 2009

According to USDA's National Farmers Markets Directory, there are 6,132 operational farmers markets in the United States this year, up 16