Applications for the funds are due May 1SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) now is accepting proposals for federal specialty crop grants. The agency has been notified Illinois will receive a share of the funds and instructed to begin the proposal selection process. The exact amount of its award, however, has not been determined. "Expanding access to nutritious, homegrown Illinois food is one of the department's top priorities," Agriculture Director Bob Flider said. "If we could increase local food purchases to just 10 percent of our grocery bill, it would generate more than 20 billion dollars in new economic activity every year, create thousands of jobs in the farming and food industries and revitalize both rural and urban communities." The funds will come from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program in the new Farm Bill. Most recently, Illinois has been receiving about $600,000 a year and using the funds to open new markets for fresh, Illinois-grown produce. 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 a 2010 Illinois Specialty Crop Survey, more than 101,000 acres of Illinois farmland are devoted to growing specialty crops, producing nearly $392 million in annual sales for Illinois farmers. Nationally, Illinois ranks first for its pumpkin production and in the top ten in the production of specialty crops such as asparagus, cauliflower, peas and lima beans. The IDOA will accept grant proposals until May 1, 2014, at 4 p.m. Request for Proposal packets and additional information about the program, including a list of past grant recipients and their projects, can be found online by clicking the specialty crops logo on the homepage of the department's website at www.agr.state.il.us or by contacting Delayne Reeves. She can be reached by phone at (217) 524-9129 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
###Related Links: Specialty Crop Grant