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U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to boost growers of state's specialty crops

Creating an app to help smart phone users identify

Washington apple varieties and researching the use of green hops in beer are just two of the projects to be funded through a federal grant.

The award was announced today, Tuesday, by the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

The $3.3 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will support the state's fruit, vegetable and horticulture growers.

The 2012 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant will fund 25 projects managed by the state ag department and other Washington organizations to benefit the third largest specialty crop industry in the nation.

Awards for individual projects range from $26,000 to $250,000.

"These projects strengthen the capacity of our diverse agricultural producers to manage some of their most pressing needs to help ensure the vitality of Washington's $7.9 billion agriculture industry," said state ag Director Dan Newhouse, who is also a Sunnyside-area farmer.

The state conducted a competitive solicitation process to award the funding. Earlier this year, state officials received 77 pre-proposals requesting funding in excess of $12 million.

After reviewing 40 full proposals, a 13-member industry review panel selected the most promising projects for inclusion into the state's single grant application.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has received more than $13 million over the past five years for projects supported by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Only California and Florida have received higher funding levels.

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