Illinois offers grants to help raise specialty crops

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – The Illinois Department of Agriculture is accepting proposals for federal crop grants to help farmers grow fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Illinois will receive more than $600,000 from a block grant that’s part of the federal Farm Bill. Grants are available for projects that improve the economic competitiveness of Illinois-grown specialty crops.

Agriculture Director Philip Nelson says specialty crops provide not only nutritional value to diets but a primary source of income to many farmers.

Projects that benefit a particular product or result in profit to an organization are not eligible. Farmers’ markets, roadside stands and other programs may submit proposals to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program.

Statistics from 2012 show more than 106,000 acres in Illinois raise specialty crops.