The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving $49 million to states to help improve specialty crops.

During an Oct. 15 teleconference, agriculture deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the state grants that fund 745 projects.

The funding, part of USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, is primarily for marketing and promotions, but also pays for pest and plant health research.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who helped lead U.S. Senate efforts to improve specialty crops funding, said the block grant program remains vital because officials want states and local growers to determine their needs.

“As we debate health care reform and reauthorize the children’s  nutrition program and look at food and nutrition and where we want our families to be, we need to make sure we’re growing enough of our healthy foods, fruits and vegetables, and making them available to people,” she said in the conference.

More information is online at www.ams.usda.gov/scbgp.

The biggest recipient states are (in millions):

  • California $16.3
  • Florida $4.
  • Washington $2.9
  • Texas $1.8
  • Oregon $1.7
  • Michigan $1.2
  • Arizona $1.1
  • New York $1.1