SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois grants of more than $700,000 will be available over three years to specialty-crop growers to encourage fresh, locally grown produce.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced the money is allocated in the federal Farm Bill’s Specialty Crop Grant Program .

READ MORE: Chicago Police Officer Shot, Wounded In Calumet Heights; One Suspect Also Shot

Applications are available on the Agriculture Department’s website and must be submitted by April 26. Eligible projects must begin in calendar year 2020. The first year’s distribution will be $237,000.

Illinois has more than 3,600 specialty-crop farms devoting more than 85,000 acres (34,000 hectares) to producing $500 million in crop sales.

READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Partly Cloudy And Breezy Overnight

State officials encourage grant proposals that center on subjects such as food safety, specialty crop research, supporting organic specialty crops, developing improve seed varieties, pest and disease control and more.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

MORE NEWS: View Live Radar