SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois will receive nearly $540,000 in federal funds to expand the availability of fresh, locally grown produce.
Agriculture Director Bob Flider said Wednesday the money will come from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. It will be split among 12 projects focused on local produce.
Flider says Illinois' "fertile soil and favorable climate" are good for growing a variety of crops. He says the grants will help encourage production and make nutritious food available to more people.
Illinois is known for growing corn and soybeans. But it's the nation's largest pumpkin and horseradish producer in the nation and is among the top states for such crops as asparagus, cauliflower, green peas and lima beans.
The state has more than 117,000 acres of specialty crops which produce $137 million in sales.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Precipitation has been below average this summer in Illinois.
Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey in Champaign says statewide average precipitation for June, July and August was just less than 10 inches. He says that's nearly 2 inches below average.
Data show June's rainfall was above average, but rainfall during both July and August were below average. However, Angel says this year is an improvement over last summer. That's when precipitation was just less than 7 inches or nearly 5 inches below average.
The summer's statewide average temperature has been 72.5 degrees. That's about 1 degree below average.
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Federal watchdogs say they're launching an effort to bolster labor-law compliance involving hand-harvested crops in Illinois and Missouri.
The U.S. Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division announced the initiative Tuesday. The intent is to safeguard agricultural workers against violations of fair labor, visa, migrant and seasonal agriculture worker, and sanitation laws.
The government says the effort focusing on growers, farm labor contractors, agricultural brokers and processors comes after earlier initiatives uncovered numerous compliance issues.
Ninety-eight investigations between the 2010 and 2012 fiscal years by the division's St. Louis district resulted in more than $100,000 in back wages for 228 employees. It also resulted in more than $80,000 in assessed civil penalties.