South Carolina has a rich agricultural history. With a wide variety of products and commodities, agriculture is part of the state’s leading industry, agribusiness, which also includes forestry and allied industries.
The Palmetto State supports its thriving agriculture industry on nearly 5 million acres of farmland. The state is a patchwork of more than 25,000 farms, with an average size of 197 acres.
Those farms produce a variety of commodities ranging from broilers to greenhouse and nursery products. The diverse agriculture industry plays a major role in the state’s economy with cash receipts totaling nearly $3 billion.
Peanuts are one such important commodity in the state. Ranking No. 5 in the nation for peanut production, South Carolina grows many varieties of peanuts; Virginia peanuts are the most popular in the state, followed by runners, which are used mostly for peanut butter and snack nuts. In total, South Carolina peanut farmers produced enough peanuts to make 3.2 billion peanut butter sandwiches in 2012.
In addition to commodity cash receipts, exports are responsible for a significant portion of South Carolina’s agricultural economic impact. The state’s top commodity, broilers (chickens for meat), ranks No. 9 in the country for exports with $142 million in 2012. China, the Netherlands and Japan are among the most popular export destinations.
Since 2008, the direct and indirect impact of South Carolina’s agriculture industry increased 7 percent from $16.7 billion to $17.9 billion. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture has initiated the strategic 50×20 plan in an effort to increase the economic impact of agribusiness to $50 billion annually by 2020.
With programs like Certified South Carolina and Certified Roadside Markets, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture strives to raise awareness about agriculture and buying locally grown products.
Diverse commodities and high standards make SC agriculture both a vital part of the state economy and a way of life.