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Local farmers upgrade poultry houses, receive USDA energy grants
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Two area farmers learned last month they will receive a portion of $1.3 million in grants from the United States Department of Agriculture for energy efficiency on their farms.


Dawson County farmers Jason Hamby and Max Wehunt are two of 639 individuals and businesses in 43 states and the Virgin Islands selected to receive $35 million in grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy systems or to improve energy efficiency in farm and business operations, including $1.3 million to fund 44 projects in Georgia.


“America is a world leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said. “These projects are good for business, good for the economy, good for jobs, and they help secure more self-sufficient energy resources for our country.”


The grants and loan guarantees are being awarded through USDA Rural Development’s Section 9006 Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements program.


The program provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to support renewable energy projects across a wide range of technologies encompassing biomass (including anaerobic digesters), geothermal, hydrogen, solar and wind energy. 


This is the second USDA grant Hamby has received in the last several years for improvements he made to his poultry farm on Bailey Waters Road in west Dawson County.


The newest grant provides support for energy efficiency improvements, helping recipients reduce energy consumption and improve operations.


Of the $35 million, $27.5 million are grants and $7.4 million are guaranteed loans.


Hamby’s largest expense on his poultry farm is propane heating.


By adhering to USDA guidelines in energy efficiency and installing solid side walls in his poultry houses, he has improved ventilation in his poultry houses and is seeing a 55 percent reduction in his fuel cost.


“We’re pleased that only one state had more approved projects than we did,” said Stone Workman, state director of USDA Rural Development.


“Georgia farmers need these improvements and we will all reap the benefits for years to come,” he added.


USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development has invested more than $90 billion since 2001 for equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure.