By Charlotte Underwood

LAFOLLETTE, TN. (WLAF)- South Campbell County Rotarians learned about the Rural Energy for America Program from guest speaker Charles Morris with the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development. Morris guest spoke at Tuesday’s Rotary Luncheon held at the LaFollette United Methodist Church.

“The program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Agriculture producers can also apply for new energy efficient equipment and new system loans for agricultural production and processing.”

The “idea behind” the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is to “improve energy efficiency” in rural areas, which Campbell County qualifies as, according to Morris. He said there was a great deal of funding available through the program in the form of grants and loans.

He shared the news that normally Tennessee has about $1.1 to $1.3 million to invest through this program yearly, but this year the program has over $8 million to put back into the state’s rural businesses and rural agriculture producers.

“It is geared towards renewable energy forms like solar or wind, energy footprint reduction, and energy efficiency; we want to help rural businesses any way we can,” Morris said.

“On the energy efficiency side, we try to help by assisting agriculture producers and rural small businesses switch over equipment or lighting and processing. This can save tens of thousands of dollars for these businesses annually,” he said.

As of April 1, the energy efficiency grant has been increased to a 50 percent grant; these grants are not for residential and are geared specifically towards businesses.

Charles Morris with the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development spoke about the Rural Energy for America Program at Tuesday’s Rotary Luncheon.

“This is an amazing opportunity. We need the help of our rural communities to spend this money. If you have a rural small business, let us help you. We have done a number of business and industry loans over the years,” Morris said.

According to Morris, Rural Development REAP has only received 38 applications in Tennessee so far, with two thirds of these for renewable energy upgrades.

“There is still $5 million in funding available; if we don’t use this money in the program, we will lose it; we need to use this money here in Tennessee,” Morris said. For more information, visit

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The South Campbell County Rotary Club inducted Lorra Ripperger (center) on Tuesday.  Her name was proposed by Rotarian Melanie Nance (right.)  South Campbell County Rotary Club President David Hickman, (left)  welcomed her to Rotary.