An event bringing together South Carolina agriculture and the businesses that support it showed what the immediate future holds for agribusiness as a whole: more of the trend toward higher technology in production that has characterized the Twenty First Century along with intense cost-price analysis of any expenditure made.

“With the cost of putting in an acre of crop, you need the ability to be precise, and you have to be able to show that you can pay back the upfront cost in a reasonable time,” said South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers in an interview during the first annual South Carolina AgriBiz and Farm Expo in Florence.

“You sure don’t want to have to count on best case scenarios. I am sure that is why we are seeing farmers here at the show looking to invest some of their profits with the goal of developing precision agricultural operations.”

Weathers remembered a study conducted in South Carolina a few years ago that showed all commodities and services in modern agribusiness, when considered together, have an impact on South Carolina’s economy that is larger than any other sector.

The study conducted by Harry Miley of Gallo and Associates of Greenville, S.C., in 2008, shows that:

• Agribusiness makes an increasingly large contribution to labor income, output and jobs;

• The agribusiness industry generates a total output of direct and indirect activity of $7.5 billion in annual labor income;

• The agribusiness industry is also a major job producer, with direct and indirect employment of 199,469 of the state’s jobs.

Weathers, a peanut, grain farmer and dairy operator in Bowman, S.C., said those trends certainly haven't changed. Unfortunately, the role of agriculture and forestry has long been overlooked in the state’s economy, although that may be changing.

“For a time, the short distance from field to fork had become light years in the minds of people,” he said. “But we see a change in that more and more folks will go the distance looking for local buying opportunities.”