(Posted Fri. Sep 9th, 2011)

renewable fuelsSept. 9: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing more than $11.6 million in grants to more than 900 agricultural producers and rural small businesses to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. While all of these grants aim to improve rural economies, many will directly impact corn farmers as a portion of the funds are designated for the installation of blender pumps, which allow customers the choice to purchase higher blends of ethanol.


"These investments enable our farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners to develop renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements that will save them thousands of dollars in energy costs each year," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This funding is an important part of the Obama administration's plan to conserve natural resources, create jobs and lead our country on the path to becoming more energy independent."


Grant recipients include many gas station owners who applied for funding to help with the installation blender pumps. While gas stations make it easy for motorists to choose between regular and premium grade gasoline at the pump, few stations allow motorists to make a similar choice when it comes to a blend of ethanol and petroleum. In addition to offering more traditional fuels such as unleaded, E10 and E85, blender pumps can also dispense a variety of mid-level ethanol blends, such as E15, E20 and E30.


“Today there are more than 8 million flex-fuel vehicles, cars and trucks that can run on a mixture of gas and up to 85 percent ethanol,” Vilsack said. “There are over 110,000 gas stations in the country today, but only 2,300 of them provide E85 pumping and distribution systems.”


By helping to fund the installation of blender pumps, these grants improve life not only for corn growers, but also for the many communities who rely on the money generated through ethanol production facilities.


“I have seen first-hand the incredible impact that an ethanol plant can have in a rural community,” said National Corn Growers Association Chairman Darrin Ihnen. “Our local plant in Chancellor, South Dakota has helped our area not only survive, but even thrive, while much of rural America watches shops close and children leave. I am extremely pleased that our organization’s efforts, along with many made at the state level, have helped in educating fuel station owners and legislators alike on the amazing opportunity to allow customers to choose a renewable, domestic fuel that blender pumps present.”


An average ethanol plant producing 85 million gallons per year adds nearly $275 million dollars to the state economy annually. It creates an average of 39 direct jobs, and approximately 1,500 jobs indirectly as the benefits of the operation multiply throughout the local community. Additionally, the ongoing annual operations of a plant like this will increase household income by a total of nearly $50 million dollars annually.


Notably, Missouri applications for the installation of 26 blender pumps were approved more than in any other state. The Missouri Corn Merchandising Council also offered fuel retailers across the state incentives to install blender pumps, thus helping to increase owner motivation to apply for the government grant.


The grants are being provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), a 2008 Farm Bill initiative. REAP offers funds for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. Grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project's cost. The second round of grants will be announced in the next few weeks.


For a complete listing of Rural Energy for America Program grant recipients already announced, please click here.