The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued nearly $118 million in grants to support fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants in an Oct. 2 conference call.

About $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funds will be released to state agricultural departments, Vilsack said. Projects to be funded will cover marketing, food safety, productivity, research and other areas, he said.

Another $51.8 million in grants will be awarded through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Those grants, Vilsack said, will help fund the development of science-based tools to meet the needs of specific crops.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia received grants, which will fund 838 projects in all.

The funds represent a “significant increase” over funding in previous years, Vilsack said.

“It’s a good day for specialty crops.”