Agribusiness growing in Pee Dee - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Agribusiness growing in Pee Dee

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The agriculture and forest industries have grown 23 percent within the last ten years and the Pee Dee is contributing to that expansion.

"In Florence County, 48 percent of the county is considered rural and of our almost 512,000 acres, 156,000 are tied up in farms," said Mary Kelley, of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership.

A study done by Dr. Jim London and presented Wednesday in Columbia found the industries that make up agribusiness have an economic impact of more than $40 billion per year in the state right now. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture is looking to increase that impact to $50 billion by 2020.

In Florence County, the FCEDP found the number of farms decreased between 2006 and 2012, but the acreage per farm increased. Profits from the products went up 60 percent within those six years.

Don Handley has been in the forestry business for nearly 60 years, but he said there's more to be tapped into when it comes to industry growth.

"3/4 of the land in the state of South Carolina is owned by private non-industrial landowners, so really I think that we should be advocates for them," Handley said.

Agribusiness accounts for 9% of the economic activity and 10% of the workforce in South Carolina, according to the study. There are 212,000 jobs supported by agribusiness.

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