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Federal agency to provide $25M loan, $500,000 in grants for North Carolina

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(The Center Square) — More than $500,000 in grants and a $25 million loan is heading to North Carolina from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help agriculture producers and rural small businesses invest in renewable energy.

The USDA announced nine grants totaling $546,619 and a $25 million loan for North Carolina on Wednesday as part of $266 million in funding through the Inflation Reduction Act for 1,334 renewable energy projects in 47 states.

The North Carolina awards include $250,000 for a poultry litter waste energy biomass facility in Wilson, $100,000 for the Roanoke Cooperative to conduct 100 energy audits for rural small businesses and agriculture producers, and $99,737 for North Carolina State University to conduct 26 renewable energy site assessments.

Smaller, five-figure grants will go to the Ten Mothers Farm, Ryan Kirby Art & Illustrations, Starlight Mead, Sungold Farm, Meredith Leight and Harbinger Wood Floor to install solar power and geothermal systems.

Carolina Poultry Power will also receive a $25 million loan to construct a poultry litter biomass power plant adjacent to the La Grange Wastewater Treatment Plant that’s expected to generate 1.5 megawatts of gross electrical power.

“Creating opportunity for rural communities means investing in farmers, ranchers, and small businesses,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “These once-in-a-generation investments in renewable energy, like wind and solar, and energy efficient technologies create new markets and deliver real cost savings for our small and mid-sized agricultural operations and Main Street businesses, building and keeping wealth in rural America.”

The funding announced Wednesday is part of $1.3 billion the USDA has awarded through the Rural Energy for America Program since December 2022, with more expected in the coming months. The USDA plans to continue to hold quarterly funding competitions for the program through Sept. 30, 2024.

The program is part of the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims “to ensure that 40% of the benefits of certain federal investments reach communities that are marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment,” according to a USDA news release.

Support for the Rural Energy for America Program, which was initially created in 2022, has varied in Congress, with some House Republicans in June calling to reduce funding by nearly $500 million and to focus more on loans than grants, citing the $1.7 trillion federal deficit. A bipartisan, bicameral proposal introduced in early August would increase the program’s funding and raise certain grant limits.

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