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State's agriculture department accepts applications for specialty crop program

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is seeking proposals from producers across the state for the specialty crops block grant program.

Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture, indicated UDAF representatives.

"This is a great opportunity for Utah industry organizations and their producers," said Jed Christenson, UDAF's director of marketing. "This grant will help Utah's specialty crop industry expand to better meet the increasing demand for fresh fruits and vegetables and other specialty crops by consumers."

The specialty crop grant stems from the U.S. Farm Bill, explained the Utah agency. The federal legislation authorizes the U. S. Department of Agriculture to partner with state departments of agriculture to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crop producers in areas such as marketing, promotion, education, research, trade, and increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops.

"UDAF must submit an application that includes possible projects from Utah to USDA by August 2009 in order to receive those funds," continued Christenson. "We are asking for project proposals to be submitted by July 17 so we can meet USDA's deadlines."

Utah anticipates receiving more than $200,000 to be awarded to individuals and entities that submit successful proposals, according to the state agency.

Individual producers, producer groups, organizations, and associations as well as state and local organizations, academia and other specialty crops stakeholders are eligible to apply as single entities or in combined efforts.

Proposals submitted by individual producers must demonstrate that the potential impact of the project will accrue to a broader group of similar producers, region or industry segment, pointed out the UDAF representatives .

Grant funds cannot be used for projects that benefit only a single company, individual or commercial entity.

Specialty crop grants have been awarded in each of the past three years, funding 36 projects that varied from researching the use of drought tolerant native flora or controlling weeds in onions, to the use of scent baited traps in orchards to control insects in lieu of pesticides.

Castle Valley producers with Internet access may obtain an application packet and program details by visiting http:www.//

Local agricultural producers may also obtain packets and speciality crop program information by calling Christenson at 801-538-7108.

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