There has been a lot of news recently about challenges of bringing jobs into South Carolina, which will certainly help our economy.

However, a hidden dilemma will ultimately hurt the U.S. economy and especially rural South Carolina communities if it is not resolved soon. It involves agricultural exports, which are essential to American prosperity.

Agribusiness is South Carolina’s largest economic engine contributing $34 billion annually to the economy through more than 200,000 jobs in the state.

Our nation’s ability to trade openly in the world marketplace is in jeopardy. It is a complicated issue. There are more than 600 bilateral and regional trade agreements in place or under negotiation worldwide. Sadly, the U.S. has a share in fewer than 25 of these trade deals.

Of great importance are three trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama that have been stalled by Congress and the Administration for several years. Further inaction could cost U.S. producers close to $2.5 billion per year in agriculture exports.

Congress now has the opportunity to vote and pass each of these agreements, making the potential gains for increasing agricultural exports to these markets a reality — gains that will benefit the farmers and ranchers of South Carolina. 

So, why is this important for the average person?

Agricultural trade is not only critical to farmers and ranchers, it is important for a strong U.S. economy and for the creation of American jobs. Every $1 billion in agricultural exports supports 9,000 U.S. jobs including those of transportation workers, food processors, packers, dockworkers, and sales and marketing professionals.

By passing all three trade agreements, nearly 22,500 new U.S. jobs could be created, including new jobs in South Carolina.