The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is offering up to $600,000 under the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

The department, in partnership with the New York Farm Viability Institute, is now accepting applications for projects eligible for grant funding through a competitive bid process.

The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is "seeking proposals for research and grower education projects that aim to enhance the competitiveness of New York's specialty crop producers and increase the long-term success of the state's agricultural industry."

Specialty crops in New York include fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, hops, maple syrup, honey, horticulture and nursery crops.

The USDA began the program in 2006 and since then New York's department of agriculture has administered $9.76 million in grants for 107 specialty crop projects across the state.

"It is so imperative that research funding be utilized to solve issues within the industry so that specialty crops can continue to thrive and be economically viable for our farmers," said Rob Carpenter, administrative director of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

Eligible applicants for the grant money include not-for-profit organizations, not-for-profit educational institutions, and local and Indian tribal governments. Grant funds will only be awarded to applicants whose projects have statewide significance to the specialty crop industry and do not propose to only benefit a single organization, institution, individual or commercial product. Applications are due Tuesday, February 14.