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 .

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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.

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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.

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