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      Federal funds help Northern Michigan growers

      Michigan gets federal funding for specialty crops.

      Michigan growers are getting some help with federal funding.

      Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow announced Tuesday that 1.2 million dollars will support 20 specialty crop projects throughout the state, including cherry, apple, maple syrup, and Christmas tree producers.

      The projects will start in October, but it is a process that started with groups submitting proposals and applications back in March and April.

      ??We're interested in seeing agriculture grow and thrive in this state, so little things like this make a big difference,?? said Jim Bardenhagen of Bardenhagen Farms. ??The intention is to have some money to help an industry, people in the industry, do something to improve their ability to market or sell specialty crops.??

      Many of the projects focus on promoting products, which will help reestablish the market share after last year's cherry and apple losses.

      ??It can lead to getting your market back and making people aware you're still here and ready to sell product again,?? said Bardenhagen. ??Specialty crops really haven't had this extra funding in the past where other crops have had that.??

      The U.S. Department of Agriculture??s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will help specialty growers around the state as well as the entire country, investing $52 million in nearly 700 projects.

      ??A program like this not only goes to the state of Michigan, it goes to specialty crops in every state when they do it on the federal level,?? said Bardenhagen.

      The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said this is a huge break for our diverse state, and will support things like food safety training, farm to table efforts, and research.

      Michigan produces a wider variety of crops than any state other besides California.

      Michigan is the national leader in the production of more than 18 crops.