Illinois ag. department seeking crop grant applications

By Jim McCabe on March 26 at 12:36pm

The state Department of Agriculture is accepting proposals for federal specialty crop grants from producers in West Central Illinois.

Department officials say Illinois will receive a share of funding from the specialty crop block grant program in the new federal farm bill. The state has been receiving about $600-thousand a year and using the funds to open new markets for locally-grown produce, but that total could change this year.

Grant manager Delayne Reeves says farmers aren’t really eligible for the grants, but they could be used for educational workshops and certain types of research.

“Say, like, doing research to show ways to eliminate a disease, say, in pumpkins, or stop from carrying over trait selections in horseradish is another one,” she says. “Picking the right root stock to plant for the next generation, things like that.”

Reeves says anyone who has ideas on how to grow the markets for certain types of crops could be eligible for federal funding.

“Peaches, sweet corn, carrots, greens, anything that you would go to a farmers market and pick up,” says Reeves. “There are also items [like] culinary herbs, maybe medicinal herbs, some horticulture products, that type of thing.”

Agriculture Department director Bob Flider says expanding access to nutritious, homegrown Illinois food is one of the department’s top priorities this year. He says increasing local food purchases could create thousands of jobs in the farming and food industries.

According to a 2010 Illinois specialty crop survey, more than 101,000 acres of state farmland are devoted to growing specialty crops, producing nearly $392 million in annual sales for Illinois farmers.

Anyone interested in applying for the grant has until May 1st to get in their proposal. For more details, call 217-524-9129.