Applying for a grant from the USDA on your own can feel like a second job — an alphabet soup of acronyms and regulations. Energy Improvement Matters (EIM) will cover the A to Zs of grant applications to make this task easier for you and to increase your odds of winning.
Advice: Even the do-it-yourself-ers may want some advice on how to fill out forms and obtain CAGE (Contractor and Government Entity) numbers. Since Energy Improvement Matters has completed over a thousand grant applications (each typically over 100 pages in length), they’ve become experts in the process. The USDA has even asked us to help teach their Rural Development specialists and to assist applicants with CAGE number securement. Please let us know if you want help at some point in your planning process. If you’re not sure what to look for in a grant, start by calling EIM at 317-228-0134.
Benefits: Do you know the benefits of the CSP program available through the USDA? The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) administered through the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), pays agricultural producers to maintain and improve their conservation practices for soil, water, air and energy. Participants earn up to $80,000/year for five-year contracts if they adopt conservation activities to address priority resources concerns; the higher the performance, the higher the payment. Contact the NRCS and ask what their priorities are in your area and when the deadlines are for applications. Visit the NRCS website or call Energy Improvement Matters (EIM) to discuss how the CSP program can benefit your farm and the environment.
Calculations: Projecting and calculating your energy savings for a REAP grant or an on-farm audit helps you assess return on investments so you can make decisions related to reducing your utility bills. Bruce Everly and Keith Cooper at EIM are experts in this area, so don’t go it alone. If you hire EIM to prepare your REAP application or to do your on-farm energy audit, their experts will guide you through the process to make it less daunting. A REAP grant might take 5 hours of your time spread over 2 months and could earn you $50,000.00, which calculates out to about $10,000.00/hour. Not a bad return on investment!
Deeds: Property ownership is one thing to consider when applying for many grants. If the USDA is going to pay 1/4th the cost of installing a new, energy-efficient grain dryer, they want to know what entity owns that property. This can be shown through a deed or by including a copy of the property taxes. EIM can advise you regarding how to prepare grant applications when the property owner and the applicant are not the same entity.
EQIP:(Environmental Quality Incentives Program) As stated on the USDA website, “EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat.” Since you have similar goals, we recommend that you ask the USDA’s NRCS office if they would fund an on-farm energy assessment and plan known as “Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) 128”. If irrigation equipment is recommended, for example, when EIM Technical Service Provider Bruce Everly completes the assessment and written plan, EQIP funding may help cover most of the cost of installing new irrigation equipment. Other plans are available to help with soil conservation, land leveling or building ponds. Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.
Look for our next issue where we’ll continue untangling the alphabet soup!
By Janet Stout Everly, EdD, COO at EIM