FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The 5th annual South Carolina AgriBiz and Farm Expo will be held January 11-12 at the Florence Civic Center. The theme for this year's expo focuses on efficiency on the farm. The trade show features hundreds of vendors and educational sessions.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture hosts the event each year, and Commissioner Hugh Weathers talked with WMBF News the first day of the event. Weathers explained with all the challenges farmers have faced within the past two years due to weather, he wants the industry's leadership and research to show people farmers are still engaged to make more opportunities for themselves and for others.
"I hear interest in folks who aren't a farmer wanting to come just to get exposed maybe a fact or two to take home they didn't know. A lot of newer farmers come for information and a lot of old guys like myself wanting to see the new technologies around precision agriculture or other things that will help us bring those efficiencies back to the farm," Weathers said.
Charlie Whiten, a member on the Farmers Advisory Committee and a farmer himself attends the expo every year. He said, "To me personally, we have the safest food now on the planet. USDA is awesome how they watch after everything that's put in and the genetics that we have. Its just a good time to be in agriculture, its just a good day to be in agriculture."
Whiten said however he understands the hardships farmers face as well. "They are stretching their necks out to give us food and grow it, and I'm one of them." He explained how he noticed a larger amount of people are attending the expo to learn more. "More people are involved, more people getting interested in what's in their food and how their food is grown."
Commissioner Weathers said in South Carolina where the flood line stops, the drought line seems to start. "Upstate farmers I toured there late summer and fall and saw firsthand the pastures normally for grazing looked like they were abandoned."
Whiten is one of the farmers that has affected. He said, "Up from Columbia to my county in Oconee we had a drought, and we had a thousand year drought like the thousand year flood like year before last, and it's devastating."
As far as the flooded areas, Weathers hopes crop insurance will help relieve some hurt. "Farmers probably made different decisions in 2016 they might have in 2015 hoping it will mitigate what we think is about a $52 million impact on crops from Hurricane Matthew and the other storms that preceded."
Another difference Weathers notices in South Carolina is the revenue to farmers per crop acre, he said compared to North Carolina or Georgia. "So we want to find a crop mix, diversification whatever it takes to move our farmers farm gate revenues on an equal acreage basis as our neighbors, and it takes looking at a crop mix differently." Weathers added more research and marketing will help farmers help others.
Whiten stated, "Be thankful for the food we have, and what we have in this state and this nation the food, the quality of the food and the farmer working hard to put it out there."
Thursday the SC AgriBiz Expo starts at 8 a.m. and will last until 4 p.m. Admission is $5.