Clements: Clemson supports growth of S.C. agribusiness

STATE — Clemson University plans to expand its support of startup and existing agribusinesses in South Carolina, President James P. Clements said at the recent S.C. Farm Bureau annual meeting.

“South Carolina’s growing network of agribusiness companies and suppliers is increasing the demand for top talent. Clemson is responding to that need with new and strengthened degree offerings, continuing education, workshops, online information resources and certification programs,” Clements said.

Additionally, Clemson is expanding its research programs aimed at maximizing farm profits while reducing environmental impact and continues to align its programming with input from the state’s farmers and business groups like the Farm Bureau, he said.

Clemson created a comprehensive new agribusiness program that blends traditional crop development and production guidance with business, marketing and financial planning expertise. The university intends to extend the reach of that program statewide in the coming year, said Clements, who spoke to around 1,000 attendees at the meeting.

Clemson already is hiring more Extension agents and agricultural research scientists across the state to expand services to South Carolina farmers, said George Askew, Clemson University vice president for Public Service and Agriculture (PSA). The new hires will further support precision agriculture research, advanced plant technology and agribusiness economics programs among others that are improving farming profitability, Askew said.

“It’s a wonderful time to be in agriculture at Clemson and see as we travel the state that our programs are working and that our president and trustees are 100 percent supportive of what we’re doing,” said Askew, who also spoke at the meeting.

David Winkles, president of the S.C. Farm Bureau, said the national Extension system is the envy of farmers around the world and credited his organization’s expanding partnership with Clemson PSA with helping to grow interest in the Farm Bureau.

“Extension is very important for farmers in the state, especially emerging farmers. With the way technology changes today and the degree of change, it’s absolutely necessary that we have an unbiased source of information, and that’s what Extension gives us,” Winkles said. “I am delighted with Jim Clements’ comments about agriculture and his history and how important he sees Extension is, and even more importantly, the new provost (Bob Jones) and his background in agriculture and how important that will be to rebuilding a number of programs that really took hits during the recession in 2006 through 2008.”

Clements credited the Farm Bureau with helping to build what he called the state’s leading economic engine. The agriculture industry generates more than $34 billion a year for the state economy and supports around 200,000 jobs.

Clements also thanked the Farm Bureau for its continued support, along with the S.C. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the S.C. Forestry Commission, the Palmetto Agribusiness Council and other supporters of Clemson programming.

Those collaborations, with state organizations and other universities, are allowing Clemson PSA to expand its support of agriculture in South Carolina, Askew said. Clemson, for example, is collaborating with the S.C. Department of Agriculture, the S.C. Department of Commerce and the Palmetto AgriBusiness Council to support growth in state fruit and vegetable production and help meet the growing demand for locally grown food.

The S.C. Farm Bureau is a grassroots, nonprofit organization supporting family farmers, locally grown food and rural lands through legislative advocacy, education and community outreach. It has more than 100,000 members.