RB Jones and Aaron Jones received a REAP grant for a grain dryer.

REAP grant adding efficiency to Jones farm

By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo

RB Jones is the eighth generation on his family’s Warren County farm going back to the original Revolutionary War grant. He has been a partner in the farm since 1977. His nephew, Aaron Jones has long helped on the farm and became a partner after his father passed away 5 years ago. RB’s son, Ryan and his family also help on the farm and his wife, Debbie, does the farm bookwork and tax prep. In addition to grain farming together, Aaron has a trucking business on the side and RB and Debbie raise cattle and goats. They all work together year-round but especially come together during the busy planting and long harvest seasons. The 2023 harvest season went a bit smoother than in the past thanks to a 2023 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program grant project the Jones family worked on with funding from the USDA Rural Development Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The grant helped purchase and install an energy efficient grain dryer offsetting nearly 66% of their annual grain drying energy consumption.

“The old grain dryer was not broken, but it was ancient and so we decided we needed to make a change and get something a little more dependable and more economical,” RB Jones said. “We had an old system and we were afraid of breakdowns, naturally. It took a person to fill it and constantly keeping an eye on it and check it about every 4 hours. So going with an automated system saved a lot of time and not getting up in the middle of the night.”

The new dryer exceeded Jones family expectations and made harvest go much more efficiently last fall in terms of time, energy and the family’s opportunity to get more sleep at night.

The Jones family is pleased with the energy and time savings during harvest with the new grain dryer on the farm.

In March, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Xochitl Torres Small joined Congressman Greg Landsman on a visit the Jones farm to see the new high efficiency grain dryer.

“Their grain dryer was old and it used to operate with a knob that you would turn. All the numbers had worn off on the knob and they just knew the right place to put it,” Torres Small said. “The new grain dryer is automatic. It provides data to a laptop and soon to an app on their phones. They’ve been able to save a whole lot on propane costs because of that more energy efficient model, but is also it just saves in terms of peace of mind of not having to go up that ladder 20 times a day and being able to sleep through the night during harvest season. Getting to hear the impact that’s had on their well-being as well as cost savings when it comes to energy is one of my favorite things about getting to work for the Department of Agriculture.”

The latest round of USDA REAP investment includes of over $120 million for 541 projects across 44 states. Through the REAP program, USDA provides grants and loans to help agricultural producers and rural small business owners expand their use of wind, solar and other forms of clean energy and make energy efficiency improvements. Since the start of the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA has invested more than $1.8 billion through REAP in over 6,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements that will help rural business owners lower energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen their resiliency of operations.

USDA continues to accept REAP applications and will hold funding competitions quarterly through Sept.  30, 2024. The funding includes a dedicated portion for underutilized renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency improvements like on the Jones farm.

“This is not a rarity. In fact, just recently there was an investment of $2 billion in REAP and many farmers have taken advantage of it, but there’s lots of folks that it’s completely new to. If you don’t have a neighbor who’s done it, who’s gone through that application process, you might want to talk to someone about it. Rural Development offices are part of USDA and are around the state of Ohio. You can walk in and talk to someone about what it would be like to apply for a REAP grant. It can provide significant funds that can help support. You can also sometimes get energy cost savings. It covers renewable energy, so if you’re looking at adding solar for example on your barn roof. It also includes energy efficiency so that energy efficient grain dryer can make a big difference. These are all options that can be used, as well as methane capture and other options depending on what’s right for your farm,” Torres Small said. “Farmers are great businessmen and women and they know what it’s going to take to be able to make ends meet. Being able to find cost savings and energy is one of those ways. Also being able to convince your son or daughter they’re not going to have to be up all hours of the night checking the grain dryer might be another way to make sure they have a great option coming back home to work on the farm. It’s a voluntary program and if you’re interested, Rural Development would love to talk to you. There has also been new technical assistance that’s provided so you can get a little more assistance filling out those forms and those applications.”

Officials are hoping the additional assistance will reduce the time required for the significant paperwork associated with REAP.

“Despite it being a wonderful investment, the paperwork can be very challenging. We’re helping the Department of Agriculture with whatever congressional support they need to get that down so it’s much easier for farmers to access programs like this one, so that they can get these investments,” said Congressman Landsman. “We bring these administration officials here as opposed to always asking people to go to D.C. We’ll bring D.C. to them and make sure that they have an opportunity to talk about what they need and then we’re in a better position to help them get what they need, which is our job.”

REAP funds may be used for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems, such as:

  • Biomass (for example: biodiesel and ethanol, anaerobic digesters, and solid fuels)
  • Geothermal for electric generation or direct use
  • Hydropower below 30 megawatts
  • Hydrogen
  • Small and large wind generation
  • Small and large solar generation.

Funds may also be used for the purchase, installation and construction of energy efficiency improvements, such as:

  • High efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC)
  • Insulation
  • Lighting
  • Cooling or refrigeration units
  • Doors and windows
  • Electric, solar or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots
  • Switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor
  • Replacement of energy-inefficient equipment.

REAP provides loan guarantees on loans up to 75% of total eligible project costs and grants for up to 50% of total eligible project costs. Combined grant and loan guarantee funding can be up to 75% of total eligible project costs. For more information about REAP, visit rd.usda.gov/programs-services/energy-programs/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency-improvement-guaranteed-loans.

Check Also

From greenhand to graduate: Allen East FFA senior reflections

By Morgan Anderson, OCJ FFA reporter For over 29,000 Ohio FFA members, the end of …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *