MU Extension helps rural Missourians lower energy costs through USDA program

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Rural Missourians can save money on energy bills with help from University of Missouri Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

MU Extension specialist Willard Downs says USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) helps Missourians lower costs through energy audits, financing and grants.

Farmers who earn at least 50 percent of their income from agriculture and small businesses in eligible rural areas qualify.

MU REAP audits cost only $112.50, a savings of thousands over standard energy audit costs, Downs says.

Audits show wasteful energy systems, he says. Auditors figure savings and suggest changes for all or part of an operation.

“It is important to be aware of the energy efficiency of your facilities, which may easily reduce your utility payment substantially with a small additional investment,” Downs says.

MU Extension helps with the first step of the program: a full farm or business energy audit. Audits show which upgrades reap the largest savings in the long term. Audits are necessary to qualify for the second step: financial incentives through REAP’s loans and grants program for renewable-energy systems and energy-efficiency improvement.

USDA offers funds to buy, install and build renewable energy systems or improve existing systems.

REAP makes loan guarantees on loans up to 75 percent of total eligible project costs, Downs says. Grants can fund up to 25 percent of eligible project costs. Combined grant and loan funding can be up to 75 percent of eligible project costs.

Loans range from $5,000 to $25 million, with loan guarantees up to 85 percent. Borrowers and lenders negotiate loan rates, which are subject to USDA approval.

Grants range from $2,500 to $500,000 for renewable-energy systems and $1,500 to $250,000 for energy-efficiency grants.

USDA offers funds now to March 2019. This is the third generation of the REAP project. During the 2010-2013 MAESTRO program, more than 200 audits were performed and 153 agricultural operations installed energy-saving systems.

To learn more about MU Extension energy audits, visit the MU REAP website at, or contact MU REAP at or 573-882-2731. You may also contact the USDA Rural Development state office at 573-876-9321, or your local MU Extension center.

Learn more about USDA REAP.