Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced Wednesday the availability of $176.5 million in loan guarantees and almost $11.4 million in grants to support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements by agricultural producers and small businesses. Johanns made the announced during his keynote remarks at the Renewable Fuels Association's 11th Annual National Ethanol Conference.
Johanns also highlighted that Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced $160 million in cost-shared funding over three years to construct up to three biorefineries in the United States. Bodman's announcement of $160 million will lead to the use of non-food based biomass, such as agricultural waste, trees, forest residues and perennial grasses in the production of transportation fuels, electricity and other products. Accelerating research to make "cellulosic ethanol" cost-competitive by 2012 offers the potential to displace up to 30% of our nation's current fuel use.
Under the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency loan and grant program, the maximum amount of a loan guarantee made to a borrower is $10 million. For renewable energy systems, the minimum grant request is $2,500 and the maximum is $500,000. For energy efficiency improvements, the minimum grant request is $1,500 and the maximum is $250,000. Rural development grants under the program will not exceed 25 percent of the eligible program costs and a combination of grants and guaranteed loans will not exceed 50 percent.
Applications for grants must be completed and submitted to the appropriate USDA Rural Development state office postmarked no later than May 12, 2006. Guaranteed loans will be awarded on a continuous basis. Applications are due to the National Office for funding consideration by July 3, 2006. Any guaranteed loan funds not obligated by August 1, 2006, will be made available for competitive grants. For more information refer to the announcement in the February 13, 2006 Federal Register or contact any state Rural Development office. Information is also available on the web at: www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/farmbill/index.html.