Fresh off the heels of a nearly $266 million renewable energy announcement from USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is urging a hands-off approach by those outside the department looking to tweak the agency’s funding pools.

Vilsack announced the more than 1,300 REAP projects Wednesday at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, where he also argued the $2 billion in program funding was one of several Inflation Reduction Act efforts that should be left as Congress designated.

“We’ve got a lot more that can be done and needs to be done; the challenge is making sure that nobody decides to redirect those resources away from the use that they were intended under the IRA, because that is what's going to continue to support climate-smart agriculture, which is what creates new additional income opportunities for producers,” Vilsack told reporters shortly after addressing attendees.

“They're in the right buckets, and they're going to do good things,” Vilsack said of the existing IRA resources. “They just need the time to do it.”

The REAP projects will go toward renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in 47 states and two U.S. territories, including $130.6 million in grants. Projects include several $1 million grants to deploy solar or wind energy on farms and ranches.

Vilsack said the $2 billion in IRA REAP funding has “a long way to go before all those resources are actually utilized,” and the department intends to make several more announcements “over the course of the next year-and-a-half to two years” with the supplementary funding provided by Congress. Once that money is spent, Vilsack said “then there’s still the existing regular program that will continue to exist.”

Don't miss a beat! Sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in agriculture in Washington, D.C. and around the country, click here.

Vilsack also touched on a House Republican effort to curtail his ability — and that of future secretaries of agriculture — to spend from the Commodity Credit Corporation.

House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Andy Harris sparred with Vilsack on the issue at a subcommittee hearing earlier this year, when the Maryland Republican argued Vilsack had misused the CCC to fund the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Program. Vilsack disagreed then and has continued to do so in comments since the exchange, and on Thursday said he hoped the Senate — which advanced an ag spending bill through the appropriations committee without a CCC spending restriction — would be able to exert more influence on the process.

“I'm hopeful that there isn't any effort to restrict the ability and capacity of the department to use all of its tools including the Commodity Credit Corporation, and that we'll continue to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to try to find creative ways to try to deal with the challenges of putting a farm bill together,” Vilsack said.

For more news, go to