- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says his department will award $118 million in grants to strengthen markets for specialty crops.

Vilsack was in Miami Thursday to announce the program. Specialty crops are fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops.

Florida will receive a total of $4.5 million for 34 projects ranging from reducing salmonella risk in tomatoes to improving the profitability of Florida’s blueberry industry.

About $66 million of the money will go to state departments of agriculture for projects that support specialty crop growers. The government will award an additional $51.8 million through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

That initiative will give a $1.3 million grant to the University of Florida for research on strawberry crop diseases.

The grant money is coming out of the 2014 Farm Bill.

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