SOBIESKI (NBC 26) — In 2015, Mike Sievert was awarded nearly $16,000 from the USDA to purchase a grain dryer for his farm.
“Things are changing fast, the way things are going right now," he said. "You hear a lot of things, you read a lot of articles about how to get better and stuff like that, and you just start learning from other people and discussing with people from there how to make things better and more practical.”
After a barn fire took one of his milking facilities just a few months ago, he’s applying for Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, funds again.
“With the economy being so terrible in agriculture right now, it’s good to know that you got somebody to support us," said Sievert. "To help us proceed in the right direction to keep going to better ourselves and take care of our community better.”
Wisconsin is home to nearly 65,000 farms, according to DATCP, and the USDA says it's on track to give record-breaking support to rural Wisconsin businesses this year. The USDA has invested 14 million dollars in loan guarantees to help create more than 80 jobs, and save almost 120 jobs, through the Business and Industry CARES Act Program.
“Farmers that are applying to us, they want to be good stewards," said Brenda Heinen, Rural Energy Coordinator for USDA Wisconsin. "Manure management, it’s the green thing to do, it’s the right thing to do, they want to pass this on to the next generation, their families.”
Farmers can use funds for renewable energy systems, from biomass, to geothermal, hydropower, wind and solar generation.
“There’s a lot of technology this year," said Sievert. "I think a lot of its going to be in the lighting and the variable speeds for our vacuum pumps and milk pumps and our well pumps and everything. I think there are going to be a lot of efficiencies and money savings and all that stuff this year.”
Any farmer can apply for a REAP award, as long as 50 percent or more of their income comes from ag production. The application deadline is November 1st.