A federal department is now accepting applications to provide assistance to some agricultural producers and small businesses for the development of energy efficient projects.

The United States Department of Agriculture will now accept applications from agricultural producers and rural small businesses to complete energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Funding for these projects is provided by the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.

REAP is aimed to help these groups reduce energy costs and consumption. The USDA has $25.4 million available to fund REAP activities across the nation.

The USDA will accept renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grant applications and combination grant and loan applications until March 30th, 2012.

Guaranteed loan applications will be accepted through June 29th, renewable energy system feasibility study applications will be accepted through March 30th, and energy audits and renewable energy development assistance applications will be accepted through February 21st.

“Projects funded through Rural Development’s REAP program reduce our dependence on foreign resources and help America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses become more energy efficient,” said Paco Valentin, Texas State director of USDA Rural Development.

Last year, more than $1.8 million spanning 66 projects were funded across Texas through the REAP program. The USDA says the funds went to projects such as solar and wind energy systems, new irrigation systems, upgrades to air conditioning and refrigeration units, and retrofitting poultry houses with more energy efficient equipment.

For more information on how to apply, call Texas USDA Rural Development at 254-742-9775, or read the online document outlining more on the program here.