USDA awards Illinois Dept. of Agriculture nearly US$650,000 to expand state's specialty crop industry

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois , October 10, 2011 () – Illinois has received nearly $650,000 in federal grants to expand the state's specialty crop industry.

State agriculture officials say 13 projects will split the funds from the Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

While officials say Illinois is best known for growing corn and soybeans, specialty crops produce nearly $137 million a year in sales for state farmers.

Ag officials say Illinois is the country's largest producer of pumpkins and ranks in the top10 in the production of asparagus, cauliflower, green peas and lima beans.

The projects receiving funding include pest control workshops for grape growers and efforts to encourage the use of specialty crops among food stamp clients.

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