SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today awarded $900,000 in grants to benefit specialty crop growers in the State of Illinois, making the announcement at the annual Ag Day Rally at the Illinois State Fair.
“Illinois is known for raising some of the best corn, soybeans and livestock in the world, but we do much more than that,” Ryan said. “Illinois producers are diversifying in order to meet the demands of the market. They’re planting orchards and vineyards, growing vegetables and nuts, even raising fish and shrimp, and these grants will help them develop and market these products.”
The grants are made available through the United States Department of Agriculture’s farm assistance package which includes a total of $159 million for specialty crop assistance. The Illinois Department of Agriculture received proposals requesting nearly $2 million under the specialty crop program.
“The high demand for these dollars shows there is a definite need to build and promote our specialty crop industry in Illinois,” said Illinois Agriculture Director Joe Hampton. “Programs like this along with Governor Ryan’s AgriFIRST program will help our producers find new ways to bring more profitability to their operations and will promote the notion of the family farm.”
According to the USDA guidelines, the funding could be used for specialty crops, agricultural production not currently supported by federal payments and expenses incurred to protect the state’s producers from acts of bioterrorism. The Illinois grants will fund projects ranging from improving food safety through providing pasteurization for cider and juice producers to developing a new statewide logo for Illinois specialty products. Projects were funded in four major categories: food safety, educational outreach, market research and development and promotion.
A list of the grant recipients follows:
Illinois Specialty Growers Association -- $200,000
Funding will be used to create a revolving loan fund to assist Illinois’ 130 cider producers to purchase pasteurization equipment.
Southern Illinois University -- $50,000
SIU will assist producers handling fresh fruits and vegetables in complying with new Food and Drug Administration regulations requiring a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan in place for their food-handling process. Large growers have one year to complete their plan. Medium-sized growers have two years and small-sized growers have three years to complete HACCP plans.
Illinois Department of Agriculture -- $86,000
Money will be used to defray costs and expenses associated with efforts to combat bioterrorism.
Illinois Specialty Growers Association -- $6,000
The Association will purchase coolers to store perishable goods at events across the state promoting Illinois produce.
Illinois Specialty Growers Association -- $15,000
Funding will be used to improve educational activities at the annual Illinois Specialty Growers Conference and to bring industry leaders to the event from around the country to speak on new innovations in the industry.
University of Illinois Extension -- $10,000
Funding will help reduce the exposure of specialty crops to pesticides by drift through the development of an educational brochure outlining the risks of pesticide drift to other commercial and specialty crop growers.
Illinois Specialty Growers Association -- $100,000
The Association will provide grants to community colleges and universities in the state to improve and maintain greenhouses. These greenhouses are essential for the continued research on specialty crops and the training of new producers.
Market Research and Development
Illinois Specialty Growers Association -- $25,000
The grant will fund a pilot program to evaluate the benefits of access to the state’s LINK system of food stamp electronic debit cards for farmers markets.
University of Illinois -- $20,000
The University will research guidelines for approved safe methods of food processing for Artisan food production, or producing food at historic and cultural sites and for farmers markets.
Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association -- $10,000
The grant would be used to promote and expand wine industry festivals across the state.
Kooistra Farms -- $25,000
The dairy will conduct an economic analysis on options of generating income from the waste stream from their facility.
National Agriculture Statistics Service -- $25,000
The Service will study the specialty crop industry in Illinois, providing demographic and economic information that will help the Illinois Specialty Growers Association determine how and where to best deliver services.
Illinois Specialty Growers Association/Illinois Farm Bureau -- $60,000
The Association will partner with the Farm Bureau to produce and purchase regional advertising to promote specialty crops.
Illinois Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Marketing and Promotion -- $268,000
The Bureau will work with Illinois specialty growers to develop a logo to use to market specialty crops. The grant money will also be used to market the logo and Illinois specialty crops.