R.E.A.P. what you sow

Thursday, April 28, 2016

In small town America, there is a saying that rural farmers and small business owners alike use and live by: "A hard day's work means a good night's sleep."

Unfortunately, there is an exception to every rule, and the exception to this rule is the economy.

The trend of rising prices for goods and services is still challenging as the value of the dollar is not following suit. Point blank, a worker's hard-earned money is not going as far as it used to. Farms and small rural businesses, though, have a possible solution to keep their operations thriving.

It's called R.E.A.P., and all rural small businesses and agricultural producers in the surrounding community are eligible.

Nathan Tutt, business program specialist for Missouri's USDA office of Rural Development, has worked to ensure that both rural agricultural producers and small business owners are aware of the benefits to using this program. The Rural Energy for America Program ― or R.E.A.P. ― has not only helped many rural families, but the full amount allocated for R.E.A.P. has been exhausted each year since he took control of the position in 2012.

In 2015, $2 million worth of grant money funded 85 different projects across the state.

The following are a few of the ways in which the R.E.A.P. program can help. As far as energy efficiency, any project that saves energy is eligible. Lighting, ventilation, irrigation equipment, supermarket refrigeration systems and grain dryers are all acceptable. Renewable energy applications can include geothermal heating and cooling, small or large wind turbines, and solar energy systems, passive or active. If you have been thinking of doing any of the above, then now is the time to apply.

While the amount available this spring is not as large ― roughly $700,000 ― it is still important to apply. When applying for R.E.A.P., there are a few things that one should understand. There are three different options as far as the program is concerned. One could apply for either a grant, a loan, or a combination of the two.

The grants are competitive in nature, and will be actively considered for two to five funding cycles, depending upon the total cost of the project proposed. Once approved for a grant or loan, there is a two-year deadline in which the project will need to be completed. Grants will cover up to 25 percent of the total project cost, and the deadline for this spring is May 2.

Loans are guaranteed up to 85 percent of the total project cost, even if applying for both loan and grant. All guaranteed loan applications are also reviewed on a monthly basis. Prior to submitting an R.E.A.P. application, the applicant will need to obtain a DUNS number (Data Universal Numbering System) and register it in the Systems for Awards Management. Remember; R.E.A.P. is an "apply before you buy" program, so don't count your chickens before they've hatched. Ensure that you've been awarded the loan and/or grant before purchasing anything.

For the hard working farmer or businessperson who currently has no time to sit down and take care of all the paperwork involved, the USDA also offers references for grant writers who have success in obtaining grant funds, and recently at that. Remember to document all work carefully so you can also take part in the benefits local and government agencies offer. For example, when installing renewable energy, KCP&L offers its customers 50 cents for every kilowatt installed for solar power and the federal government gives a 30 percent tax benefit, as well. There are two different coverages in the area, so KCP&L customers can call their local KCP&L office to learn if the incentive can still be utilized.

If you are a small rural business or farming operation that has needs, contact your local representative about upgrading your operations. For northern Missouri, contact Steve Gerrish in Moberly at 660-263-7400 ext 4. For the state representative, contact Nathan Tutt at 573-876-9327. For those who apply and are approved, they can rest assured they're projects will be funded and focus more on planting season, when the days are early and the nights are long.

Contact Dennis Gonnerman at dgonnerman@marshallnews.com