USDA Grants Help Local Rural Development

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HASTINGS, Neb. -- The USDA Rural Development through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) awarded $146,000 in grants to 15 Nebraska applicants to help with energy conservation.

According to a news release, the funds will cover energy-efficient improvements and renewable energy systems installation.

The USDA has awarded $545 million to support similar projects worldwide since 2009. For local award recipients, that means helping rural development.

In a small town where most everyone knows each other by name, Gibbon's only grocery store is getting a big boost from a federal grant to keep it's steady sales going.

"The grant will actually pay for the coolers that we already installed and offset quite a bit of the cost," Adam's Corner Store owner Adam Ferguson said.

The USDA's Rural Energy for America Program provided about a quarter of the funding needed for the store's project to save energy and update the equipment.

The grant is unique, authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 for agricultural producers and rural small businesses.

"This is the first time I've heard of it. I didn't even know they had grants available," Ferguson said.

Shoppers said it's a big deal for the town of just more than 1,800.

"We have convenience stores but as far as a grocery store itself, this is the only store in the area. We'd have to go quite a few miles just to go to a store," Coppernoll said.

Coppernoll said the renewable energy factor is something that could be beneficial, considering the community's rising cost of energy.

"It's nice to see Adam's is updating everything and doing their job to help the economy that way," Coppernoll said.

"I would like to see this grow as something for the smaller communities to take advantage of," Ferguson said. "That way they can upgrade their older equipment at a price and help out the small town grocery stores."

But the grants aren't just helping small town stores; thousands of dollars given to 14 other individual farms and businesses in Nebraska will replace old machinery.

The Census of Agriculture states the number of farms using renewable energy doubled from approximately 23,451 in 2007 to 57,000 in 2012.

The following are the 15 energy projects listed by county:

Antelope:
Willow Run Farms – Brunswick - $12,224 – Converting four diesel irrigation engines to electric motors.

Buffalo:
Adam’s Corner Market – Gibbon – $19,841 – Replacing coolers in a rural grocery store.

Level 5, LLC – Kearney – $5,686 – Installing a wireless management system to control the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in each hotel room.

Luth, David – Ravenna – $2,964 – Converting a diesel irrigation engine to electric motor conversion and install underground wiring.

Dawes:
D & S Market, LLC – Crawford – $10,094 – Replacing 19 freezer doors in a rural grocery store.

Dixon:
Genesis Enterprises, LLC – Allen – $2,521 – Installing a six kW Photovoltaic Solar System.

Nelson Land & Cattle Co. – $11,840 – Converting four diesel irrigation engines to electric motors.

Hayes:
Johnson, Amanda – Hayes Center – $16,351 – Converting a diesel irrigation engine to an electric motor, installing a variable frequency drive, underground wiring and a water pipeline.

Unger, Gerald – Hayes Center – $17,653 – Converting two diesel irrigation engines to electric motors, installing underground wiring, and headshafts.

Knox:
Moser, Edward – Creighton - $6,596 – Converting a diesel irrigation engine to an electric motor.

Lincoln:
Feeney Farm, Inc. – Maxwell - $4,305 – Converting a diesel irrigation engine to an electric motor, installing a pump panel and underground wiring.

Frame, James – Hershey - $12,434 - Converting three diesel irrigation engines to electric motors, installing headshafts, pumps, pump panels, and underground wiring.

J & L Livestock & Supply, Inc. – Hershey - $17,154 – Converting two diesel engines to electric motors and installing underground wiring.

Ozzie’s, Inc. – Sutherland - $2,858 – Replacing 16 Metal Halide Canopy Lights with light-emitting diode (LED) lights at a rural gas station.

Phelps:
Verbeck Farms, Inc. – Funk - $3,479 – Converting a diesel irrigation engine to an electric motor and installing underground wiring.

The application process is still open until June 30. Check eligibility and find the form here: http://1.usa.gov/1Fj8gMw.