Nebraska farmers and ranchers should consider seeking federal grants to help them undertake energy conservation projects.
Merlyn Carlson, Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) director, says that USDAâ€™s Rural Development Office will have federal grant funds this spring for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement projects.
Among the projects for which funding may be available is switching from a gravity irrigation system to a center pivot. â€œThis program may be able to help you with a portion of that cost," Carlson says.
In addition to irrigation systems, energy efficiency projects can include improvements to pumping systems, refrigeration, lighting, motor systems and insulation. Renewable energy projects can include systems deriving energy from biomass, biogas, wind, and solar.
Cliff Kumm, Rural Development specialist from Beatrice, says $22-23 million is available for the program nationally. All applications go to USDA for consideration.
He expects the program to open for applications in May or June. In addition to producers, businesses located in towns of less than 50,000 population are eligible for the program. Under last year's program rules, producers could receive grants for up to 25% of project costs.
â€œSaving energy by converting from gated-pipe to center pivot or converting a pivot from high pressure to lower pressure nozzles are projects that may qualify,â€ Kumm says.
In the renewable energy category, Kumm encourages farmers to consider on-farm wind turbines.
Kumm says that last year 15 projects were funded in Nebraska, worth about $182,000.
Examples of agriculture-related projects that were funded include a dairy that replaced cooling and exhaust fans and a number of irrigation system conversion projects.
Rural Development officials encourage producers to begin planning for the program now so they can be prepared to apply when the application period opens.
More information can be accessed on the Internet at www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/farmbill/index.html or by calling (402) 223-3125. Additional USDA Rural Development offices and phone numbers in Nebraska are: Columbus, (402) 564-0506; Ainsworth, (402) 387-2242; Scottsbluff, (308) 632-2195; North Platte, (308) 534-2360; and Kearney, (308) 237-3118.