SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Ten agriculture-related projects that are looking for way to expand the availability of fresh, locally-grown produce in Illinois will be sharing $550,000.

In a news release, the Illinois Department of Agriculture will receive the money through the most recent federal Specialty Crop Grant Program.

The grants will go to programs that will study such issues as the best produce washing and handling techniques for farmers and look to give the poor greater access to fresh produce.

Illinois Agriculture Director Raymond Poe says it is important to support the state’s specialty crop industry — which includes fruits, vegetables, nursery crops, tree nuts, horticulture and dried fruits. He adds it’s important to make these crops more available throughout the state.

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