Dec 11, 2019
USDA funding of energy projects, systems includes Michigan farms

A fourth generation Berrien County, Michigan, farm that has been in business since 1903 is gaining a renewable energy investment from the USDA to help it with energy efficiency innovations that will allow the operation to remain competitive in the open marketplace.

Leitz Farms of Sodus is one of 25 Michigan recipients announced Dec. 10 by Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing in to the tune of $773,000. It’s part of a nationwide investment of $237 million to help farmers, ag producers and rural-based businesses lower their energy costs.

The Michigan awards are part of the 640 awards the department is providing to applicants in all 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Western Pacific. USDA is providing the funding through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

LaVoy says, “Businesses grow and create more jobs when their energy costs are lower,” and adds, “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural businesses, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

Recipients can use REAP funding for energy audits and to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar. The funding can also be used to increase energy efficiency by making improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; and lighting and refrigeration.

For the Leitz Farms family, the money will go to a new solar array at its facilities located at 5109 River Road in Sodus, Michigan, where they have more than 600 acres in production of fruit and vegetable crops including several varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, blueberries and apples.

Jason Allen is Michigan’s State Director of USDA Rural Development. He says, “These investments strengthen rural Michigan businesses by lowering costs and increasing energy independence.”

Leitz Farms are one of Michigan’s 25 recipients with a total investment of $773,000. The Leitz grant is for $46,800 to install a solar array. Here’s the complete list of grants in Michigan:

  • In Antrim County, Padlock LLC will use a $35,976 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Benzie County, Hawkfossil LLC will use a $6,456 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Berrien County, Leitz Farms LLC will use a $46,800 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Clinton County, Gene Schneider will use a $19,377 grant to upgrade a grain dryer.
  • In Emmet County, Bliss Gardens Inc., will use a $5,819 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Huron County, Zuurkool LLC will use a $42,416 grant to install a geothermal system.
  • In Ingham County, Wildtype Design Native Plants and Seed Ltd. will use an $18,296 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Isabella County, Lone Maple Development LLC will use a $32,000 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Jackson County, Christoff Commercial Properties LLC will use a $16,853 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Kalamazoo County, Frost Legacy Farms LLC will use a $49,665 grant to upgrade a grain dryer.
  • In Kent County, Green Wagon Farm LLC will receive a $13,760 grant, Michigan Apple Packers Cooperative will receive a $66,890 grant and The Falls at Barber Creek LLC will receive a $16,425 grant. All three projects will use the funds to install solar arrays.
  • In Leelanau County, Keen Weh LLC will use a $9,763 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Lenawee County, State Line Farms will use a $100,000 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Mackinac County, Mackinac Bluffs Maple Farms Inc. will use a $19,615 grant for energy-efficient lighting upgrades.
  • In Mason County, West Coast management Inc., Copper Corp. and Star Hospitality Inc. will each receive a $20,000 grant for solar arrays.
  • In Midland County, Geisler Enterprises Inc. will use a $67,439 grant for upgraded lighting, improved insulation and more energy efficient heating and cooling systems.
  • In Muskegon County, Brink Terminal Services Inc. will use a $50,000 grant to install a solar array.
  • In Ottawa County, Bloemenberg Growers Inc. will receive a $35,062 grant, Bosch’s Country View Nursery Inc. will receive a $25,935 grant, Chart House Energy Investment Fund LLC will receive a $14,603 grant and Lynden Sports Center LLC will receive a $19,850 grant. All four projects will use the funds to install solar arrays.

Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy said Dec. 10 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $237 million to help farmers, ag producers and rural-based businesses lower energy costs (PDF, 229 KB). The Department is providing 640 awards to applicants in all 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Western Pacific. USDA is providing the funding through the Rural Energy for America Program(REAP).

“Businesses grow and create more jobs when their energy costs are lower,” LaVoy said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural businesses, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

Recipients can use REAP funding for energy audits and to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar. The funding can also be used to increase energy efficiency by making improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; and lighting and refrigeration.

For example:

  • In Alaska, four commercial fishing boat operators will receive a total of $74,153 to purchase equipment to reduce energy costs and keep their catch fresh. One of the operators, Jasper P. Allbrett, in Sitka, will receive a $48,618 grant to upgrade the insulation of fish holds, pumps, the refrigeration unit’s electrical system and the auxiliary generator on his boat. The REAP grants will save each operator about $5,000 annually and will reduce fuel oil consumption by an estimated 34 percent per year.
  • Vicksburg Forest Products LLC in Vicksburg, Miss., will receive a $250,000 grant to upgrade lighting and make improvements to a compressed air system, which will lower electrical consumption by an estimated 63 percent a year, enough to power 462 homes.
  • Panek Farms, in Albion, N.Y., is receiving a $185,470 grant to purchase and install a 320-kilowatt solar array. The project will save the farm $32,675 each year and replace enough demand to power 36 homes.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Supporting the rural workforce was a cornerstone recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

Fred Leitz is the owner of Leitz Farms of Sodus, Michigan. Photo: Stephen Kloosterman





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