Study: Agribusiness is a $34 billion economic engine in state
Agriculture, forestry eclipse manufacturing and toursim as S.C.'s cash cow
Agribusiness is South Carolina's No. 1 industry, ahead of manufacturing and tourism. Anderson County farmer Brian Clinkscales' Triple C Farms in Starr raises swine and cattle.
A study conducted by the South Carolina Agribusiness Council and the South Carolina Forestry Association shows agriculture and forestry have eclipsed manufacturing and tourism as the state’s largest economic segment.
Harry Miley of Miley Gallo and Associates, a Greenville-based economic consulting firm, estimated that South Carolina’s agribusiness, which includes all aspects of farming and forestry, annually contributes $33.9 billion to the South Carolina economy and employs an estimated 200,000 residents.
“The bottom line is that South Carolina’s oldest industry has entered the 21st century with great promise in the emerging economy,” Miley said in a statement.
And, while technology and manufacturing remain at the forefront of many state and county economic initiatives, the role of agribusiness and the need to encourage local agricultural production and consumer awareness should not be underestimated, he said.
“South Carolina’s agribusiness is so much larger than most people realize,” said Evin Evans, co-owner of Split Creek Dairy Farm in Anderson. “Producing, packaging and transporting food is an enormous industry and contributes a great deal to the state economy in terms of tax revenue and job creation.”
Evans said that “agribusiness, which is everything from growing food to raising cattle to insuring farm equipment or selling supplies, is the jewel in South Carolina’s own backyard.”
Edgar Woods of the Palmetto Agribusiness Council echoed Evans’ sentiment.
“The industry that provides consumers with food is one of the dominant economic forces in our state and the challenge remains for our leaders to continue encouraging the development of new technologies and methods in support of that industry,” Woods said.
Besides the economic impact, another less obvious benefit is derived from the consumption of locally grown food — economic independence and security.
“Just like foreign oil, we can ill afford to become dependent on foreign food,” Evans said. “It is harder to inspect products for contamination when they are grown in foreign soil. It also costs a great deal more in terms of logistics, and the only ones who gain are the multinational food distribution companies.”
Jim Smith, founding director of South Carolina’s Upstate School of Sustainable Agriculture, said consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the origins of their food, from where it is grown to how it is fertilized and stored.
“The demand from restaurant owners and consumers for locally grown, organic food is outstripping supply,” Smith said.
He cited a variety of factors are contributing to the increased demand, including a desire many consumers have to buy local, organic produce rather than what is shipped in from outside sources.
Forestry officials said emerging technologies for alternative fuels will help the agribusiness sector grow even faster.
“This is just the beginning compared to what we are likely to see in the coming decades,” said Bob Scott, president of the S.C. Forestry Association, in a statement. “Whether its carbon credits or biofuels, South Carolina will be on the cutting edge.”
State Rep. Jeff Duncan, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, called on members of the state legislature to look closely at the results of the Miley study.
“Agriculture should not be seen as what our state used to be,” Duncan said in a statement. “It’s the backbone of our economy.
“As elected officials, we have a responsibility to do all we can to support growth in the agribusiness sector,” he said. “Our future depends on it.”
To learn more about “agribusiness” in South Carolina, go to www.carolinafarmsteward.org.