Missouri small farmers who want to reduce energy costs at their homes and farms are getting help from a new $5 million grant program, Gov. Jay Nixon said. The Governor announced the launch of the Missouri Agricultural Energy Saving Team - a Revolutionary Opportunity (MAESTRO) from the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the University of Missouri Extension today in Jefferson City.
MAESTRO will provide low-interest loans and rebates for farmers taking steps to implement best practices for energy efficiency on their farms. Between now and May 2013, the program is expected to help Missouri farmers who have livestock operations identify and implement the best practices at approximately 300 farms and 100 farm homes.
"Agriculture is a key cog in our state's economic engine, and we continue to look for new ways to help Missouri's farmers become more energy efficient and more profitable," Gov. Nixon said. "The assistance that MAESTRO will provide can play a large role as producers seek innovative ways to grow their farm operations and improve their energy efficiency."
MAESTRO will offer several financial incentives to farmers:
- Audit cost share - For qualified farmers, MAESTRO will pay up to two-thirds of the cost of a farm audit, up to $1,000; and up to one-half of the cost of a home audit, up to $250. Farm audits booked through MAESTRO cost $1,500, so the cost to the farmer would be only $500; home audits cost $500, so the cost to the farmer would be only $250.
- Audit rebate - Farmers would be eligible for a rebate of a portion of their audit costs when their energy savings from completed audit recommendations are greater than the costs of the audit and the cost of the improvements combined. Examples of upgrades include retrofitting of fans and energy efficient lighting.
- Grants for interest buy-down or down payment - MAESTRO will pay part of the customer's interest on loans to install audit recommendations, so that that customer only pays three percent interest on loans to install audit recommendations. Farmers can choose to use the savings they would have realized from the lower interest rate to be applied as a down payment on their loans instead. The maximum amount of the loan that would qualify is $50,000.
- Loan loss reserve - Lenders making an approved eligible energy efficient loan may receive a 75 percent loan guarantee on loans not to exceed $50,000.
"I am proud to see the work between the Department and its partners to realize such a unique opportunity on behalf of Missouri farmers," said Director of Agriculture Dr. Jon Hagler. "Missouri farmers have continuously shown great interest in both efficiency and innovation, cornerstones of this program."
Missouri received the opportunity to launch MAESTRO through a competitive grant process, and was the only state to receive funding for this type of program. The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Energy, and was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The University of Missouri Extension has hired four auditors for the energy audit process. Farmers participating in the program will receive thorough energy audits of their farms and farm houses and guidance on energy saving devices and practices that are likely to be most effective to reduce usage within their individual operations.
"Our preliminary estimates suggest per-farm savings will be between $500 and $600 per month after the energy savings devices are installed or new procedures implemented," said Leon Schumacher, University of Missouri professor of agricultural systems management. "Our aim is to provide farm operations with affordable ways to reduce their energy usage."
Program loans and rebates will be administered by the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority. Training for auditors will be overseen by EnSave, Inc., a private firm specializing in agricultural energy efficiency.
Farmers wanting more information about MAESTRO can call 1-800-732-1399.