Illinois To Receive Federal Specialty Crop Grant Money

   The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) is now accepting proposals for federal specialty crop grants. The agency has been notified Illinois will receive more than $600,000 and instructed to begin the proposal selection process.
   “For many Illinoisans, specialty crops not only provide vital nutrition, but also are a primary source of income,” Director Philip Nelson said. “The fruits, vegetables and nuts grown on our state’s farmland will provide Illinois families with access to fresh, healthy food. In addition to the availability of Illinois-grown produce, these grants can help enhance a grower’s profitability and sustainability.” 
   The funds will come from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program in the Farm Bill. They are available for projects that solely enhance the competitiveness of Illinois-grown specialty crops in either domestic or foreign markets.
   Projects that benefit a particular commercial product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual are ineligible. Farmers’ markets, roadside stands and community-sponsored agriculture programs should consider submitting proposals to the USDA’s Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program.
   The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service defines specialty crops as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture).”
   According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than 106,000 acres of Illinois farmland are devoted to growing specialty crops on more than 3,200 farms. Illinois is the nation’s leading producer of pumpkins and horseradish, and ranks in the top ten in acreage of cantaloupes, green peas, lima beans, and sweet corn. Illinois also is home to a flourishing grape and wine market, with 1,197 acres of farmland dedicated to growing grapes on 421 farms. Sales of all specialty crops in Illinois, including nursery and greenhouse sales, totaled almost $470 million in 2012.
   The IDOA will accept grant proposals until May 1, 2015, at 4 p.m. Request for Proposal packets and additional information about the program can be found online at the department’s website at For more information call (217) 524-9129. ∆
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