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South Carolina's ag chief wants more processing in state

Agriculture Business
Bruce Smith/AP
/
AP
FILE - A farm stands on Sept. 22, 2013, in Fort Motte, S.C. Agriculture officials announced Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, they have reached their goal of $50 billion of economic impact in South Carolina and plan to ask lawmakers for $75 million to help lure processing and packing plants to the state to keep growing the industry. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, File)

South Carolina's agriculture chief plans to ask lawmakers for $75 million to help bring processing and packing facilities to the state so farmers don't have to send their products away.

Expanding that capacity will help South Carolina's agriculture business keep growing, South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said at a Monday news conference.

Weathers, a Republican who has been South Carolina's top elected agriculture official for nearly two decades, was also celebrating reaching his goal of more than $50 billion of economic impact for agriculture.

"From farmers to foresters, from poultry plants to paper mills, from turf grass to high-tech tractor repair, agribusiness has an enormous effect on South Carolina, and we're proud of it," Weathers said.

He was joined by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who altered his standard "South Carolina is booming" line when making economic development announcements.

"South Carolina is booming. And South Carolina is blooming," McMaster said.

A little over half that $50 billion impact comes from traditional agriculture and a little under half comes from forestry, Weathers said.

The next step to keep growing agribusiness in South Carolina is to bring in processing and packing plants. A recent economic study found if the state could expand its cattle industry, that could bring in an additional $500 million as ranchers stop sending cows out of state, Weathers said.

"We send it out West to a finishing facility and it comes back a steak," Weathers said. "We have more of our farmers who want to process here — realize more value per animal."

Peanut processors will soon benefit from a processor coming to the state and bringing 130 jobs, Weathers said.

Cotton, hemp, seafood, fruit and vegetable farmers could also be helped if processing was in state, Weathers said.

The commissioner plans to ask the Legislature for $75 million to pay incentives for those businesses to come to the state.

The more than $16 billion in growth in agriculture over 15 years has come as the number of farms and land used remains roughly the same, Weathers said.

"We are adding more value in South Carolina," Weathers said.