"Renewable energy development presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America. This funding will assist rural farmers, ranchers and business owners to build renewable energy projects, providing opportunities for new technologies, create green jobs and help America become more energy self-sufficient."

So said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on January 20 when he announced a new application period for grants and loan guarantees under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

For further instructions on how to apply and deadlines, click here .

To learn more about REAP, check out the video from an EESI Capitol Hill briefing that we sponsored last summer. Panelists described REAP renewable energy projects in Mississippi, Colorado, and in the dairy industry.

To find out about REAP programs in your county or state, go to the new USDA energy web site .

At a time when and job creation is at a standstill across the U.S. and oil import costs are soaring, driving up costs for agricultural producers and rural businesses, REAP represents the kind of public investment that can help get the economy moving again in an environmentally sustainable direction. REAP has helped reduce energy costs for poultry producers, convert livestock wastes to clean heat and power on dairy farms with anaerobic digesters, and finance local wind energy projects for rural electric cooperatives. Each of these projects have supported local job creation and rural business development and helped make these agricultural producers and businesses more competitive.