HARRISBURG – Direct and matching grants for projects that increase knowledge and awareness of agricultural and rural issues among youth are now available, acting Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said.

Applications for the Agricultural and Rural Youth Grant Program are available for innovative projects in aquaculture, animal science, food safety and other agricultural topics. Applications must be submitted to the department via mail and must be postmarked by Oct. 31.

"Through the 4-H, FFA and other rural youth organizations, our young leaders develop the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in the agriculture industry," said Redding. "By investing in the work of these organizations, the grants develop the pipeline of leaders who will keep our state's number one industry growing."

The program provides funding to youth organizations that are recognized by the commonwealth to promote development in the areas of agriculture, rural community leadership, vocational training or peer fellowship.

Project proposals should demonstrate relevance to agricultural or rural issues and show originality and community impact.

In its 17th year, the grant program offers eligible organizations the opportunity to apply for a matching grant of up to $10,000 for projects, including capital projects relating to agriculture or rural issues, and equipment purchases to be used in the course of an agricultural project or project relating to rural issues.

Projects considered for direct grants of up to $2,500 may include:

• Those related to agriculture or rural issues;

• Educational programs relating to agriculture or rural issues and

conducted by the applicant;

• Educational seminars or field trips relating to agriculture or rural

issues attended by the organization;

• Agriculture safety training programs; and

• Equipment purchases and capital projects.

Eligible programs may receive one of each grant within the calendar year. For direct grants, applicants must provide a detailed description of the project to be funded, a reasonable and accurate statement of the estimated project cost, and a copy of the official youth organization board minutes where action was taken on the proposed project.

In addition to the requirements for the direct grants, matching grant applicants must also describe the source of the organization's matching funds for the project.

Since 1992, the program has awarded 420 direct grants and 65 matching grants totaling more than $1.4 million to FFA, 4-H, agricultural extension and agricultural education organizations statewide.

For an application, visit www.agriculture.state.pa.us and click on "Students and Educators" and then "PDA Agricultural Rural Youth Grant," or contact Kristi Rooker at 717-346-4202 or krookerstate.pa.us.

Return completed applications by Oct. 31 to Kristi Rooker, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, 2301 N. Cameron St., Room 311, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9408.