Programs promote energy efficiency, rural broadband.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

April 4, 2023

2 Min Read
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USDA announced it is investing $1 billion in grants to help agriculture producers and rural small businesses make energy-efficient improvements. The grants will be funded by the Inflation Reduction Act and allocated through the Rural Energy for America Program. USDA began accepting applications for this program on April 1.

White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi says the Biden administration’s approach is to expand clean energy affordability for people in every zip code, which will in turn expand opportunities. According to him, America is becoming a “magnet” for private capital investment in clean energy, lifting up rural communities in different ways

“This administration is taking bold action to make sure that all Americans are able to unleash the opportunity that clean energy represents to help lower bills and cut costs for families and small businesses, and to make sure that we are boosting the resilience and the reliability and the security of our energy grid and our energy resources,” Zaidi says. “You know, oftentimes, the story of climate change is told as a story of gloom and doom, with the raging fires and the surging seas and the droughts wreaking havoc on ranches and farms across the country. What's important is to look at how we can sturdy ourselves and make ourselves more resilient in the face of these challenges.”

Included in the funding is $144.5 million set aside for underutilized technology. The REAP program is part of the Biden Administration’s Justice40 initiative that mandates 40% of certain federal investments go to marginalized or underserved communities as well as those overburdened by pollution.

More money for rural broadband

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also announced USDA would be allocating $40 million for high-speed internet projects in rural New Mexico. The Western New Mexico Telephone Company is receiving $23.8 million to provide high-speed internet to people in sparsely populated Catron County. E.N.M.R. Telephone cooperative will get $2.6 million to provide high-speed internet to De Baca, Guadalupe, Harding, Quay, San Miguel, Socorro and Union counties. A $13.9 million grant to the Peñasco Valley Telephone Cooperative will bring high-speed internet to 550 people, 48 farms and 11 businesses in Chaves, Eddy, Otero and Lincoln counties.

“Connecting rural Americans to reliable, high-speed internet helps farmers and businesses operate more efficiently and break into new markets,” Vilsack says. “It helps build and keep wealth in rural communities. USDA is committed to making sure that people, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet. That’s how you grow the economy – not just in rural communities, but across the nation.”

These New Mexico projects are the fourth round of grants from USDA’s ReConnect Program. Since the program was announced it has invested $1.7 billion in rural high-speed internet efforts. Funding for the projects was authorized by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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