South Carolina agriculture will come together in a big way with the first annual South Carolina AgriBiz and Farm Expo, to be held at the Florence, S.C., Civic Center Jan. 16-18.

The meeting will be an umbrella event, with the purpose of bringing together all the many components that make up South Carolina and Southeastern agriculture.

It will feature speakers who will address the most pressing issues facing farmers and farming in the upcoming years.

It will also feature an exhibition hall and vendors who will provide up to date technical information on new equipment and technology available to farmers for the upcoming crop year.

Bringing the many factions of agriculture together has been the dream of South Carolina’s agriculture leaders for the past several years. The current cast of ag leaders in the state has ushered in a new era of putting a focus on agribusiness, and has created an event that will truly benefit all the people of the state and in surrounding states.

As is the case with their neighbors in Georgia and North Carolina, agriculture is the leading industry in South Carolina — by a wide margin.

As a peanut, grain farmer and dairy operator in Bowman, S.C., Hugh Weathers saw this need as a farmer. Now, as commissioner of agriculture in the state, he sees the need on a much wider scale.

“Agriculture is the foundation of the agribusiness industry and the bright spot in our struggling economy. We have a year-round growing season, fertile soil, productive farms and experienced farmers.

“Our state is located within a 24-hour reach of 100 million people and we have a ready agriculture industry, now valued at more than $35 billion annually,” Weather says.

Another driving force behind the establishment of the Expo and expo advisory council member is David Winkles, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau.

“Winkles has long sought to bring closer together the many crop and livestock production groups that help make up his membership.

Preaching to the choir

Oftentimes, agriculture has been accurately accused of preaching to the choir. This new statewide event will be one step toward changing that trend.

“Companies want to invest where they can enhance their competitiveness and profitability. South Carolina is that place. The South Carolina Agribiz & Farm Expo will help spread the word.”

Weathers is supporting the new show with more than his words. He serves on the expo’s advisory council and onFriday, Jan. 18, from 7:00 a.m. until 8:15 a.m.,  attendees can join him for breakfast and an update on the outstanding year of 2012 for South Carolina agriculture and the opportunities for the graduates of the South Carolina Commissioners School of Agriculture and other students in the future of this booming industry.

On Thursday, Jan. 17, attendees will get a chance to not only hear, but taste the many benefits of South Carolina agriculture during a Taste of South Carolina Agriculture.

Invited guests will include: agriculture leaders, agriculture organizations, political leaders, commodity groups, commodity boards, exhibitors, economic developers, and farmers. 

This will be the premier place to meet and mingle with the who’s who involved in all aspects of the business of agriculture.

“We expect the South Carolina AgriBiz and Farm Expo will lead to a stronger agricultural industry in the state with increased economic opportunities for those currently involved and to bring new agricultural industry development to our state,” says David Winkles, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau.

The event will feature South Carolina grown and processed food and beverage and will also spotlight key agribusiness companies, leaders, advocates and the South Carolina Heritage Farmer of the Year.

The Expo will also feature updates on major crops and up-and-coming crops that promise to be a future part of South Carolina’s booming $34 billion agriculture industry.

The list of speakers expected to provide farmers and agribusiness leaders attending the meeting with updates on agricultural production in South Carolina and neighboring states is somewhat unique in size and scope in the Southeast.

Only North Carolina, which brings together cotton, corn, soybean and small grains together in one meeting, comes close to bringing so much agricultural production expertise to one place at one time.

The educational program, which will be ongoing during the Expo includes the following scheduled presentations:

• “Farm Bill update — what farm bill and how will it affect your operation,” which will be presented as part of the opening session for the expo by Ted Etheridge, president of ARMtech Insurance Services and David Ruppernicker, CEO of the Southern Cotton Growers Association and the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association.

• “The Future of Agriculture — up and coming traits and technologies, chemistries and crops: Battling resistance through GMO’s.” This presentation is scheduled to be presented by Alan York, former Distinguished Professor of Weed Science at North Carolina State University; Mike Marshall, a weed scientist and assistant professor at Clemson University and by Wes Everman, a weed scientist and assistant professor at North Carolina State University.

Kudzu bug control

• “Control and management of the kudzu bug — A new pest in the Southeast,” which will be presented by Clemson University Entomologist Jeremy Greene.

• “Land as your legacy — it’s your land — you should choose who inherits it,” presented by Steve Hamilton, director, Nationwide Financial Advanced Consulting Group.

• “Will corn, soybeans and wheat maintain these lofty levels in 2013 and will cotton compete,” presented by Edgar Woods, president and owner of Palmetto Grain Brokerage.

• “Updates on flax, grain sorghum and canola production and marketing in South Carolina,” presented by Mike Garland, crop development director for AgStrong, a Georgia-based company that buys canola in South Carolina; Steve Sandroni, vice-president of agriculture for Crailar, which buys flax and helps producers grow the crop in South Carolina; and by David Hull, a grain buyer for North Carolina-based Murphy-Brown, which buys grain in the Carolinas and Virginia for use in the livestock industry.

• “Using switchgrass and grass hay alternatives to pine shavings for poultry house bedding,” presented by Jody Purswell, a research agricultural engineer with the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Poultry Research Unit at Mississippi State University. (2 hours of CAMM credits)

• “Innovations in precision agriculture,” presented by Will Henderson, precision agriculture specialist at Clemson University’s Edisto Agriculture Research and Education Center in Blackville, S.C.

• “Peanut Production in South Carolina — keys to be sustainable and profitable in a fluctuating market place,” presented by Scot Monfort, Clemson University and South Carolina Peanut Specialist.

• “Assisting Mother Nature: Optimum Soybean Yields with Irrigation.” Presented by Phil Tacker, formerdistinguished agricultural engineer and irrigation specialist at the University of Arkansas. (CCA Credits)

• “The economics of crop production in South Carolina,” which will be presented by Wilder Ferreira, an Extension Economist and Agribusiness Instructor at Clemson University.

• “Soybeans to the max: Nutrient management for maximum yields,” which will be presented by Glen Harris, associate professor and extension agronomist at the University of Georgia. (CCA Credits)

• “Wild hogs and coyotes: status and management,” presented by Greg Yarrow,chair of the Natural Resources Division and professor of Wildlife Ecology in the School of Agricultural, Forest, and Environmental Sciences at Clemson University. 

In addition to the impressive array of professional speakers at the Expo, Jody Martin, who is chairman of the advisory council, who collectively put the program together, says, “We are expecting vendors of all types, including tractor companies, ag chemical suppliers, implement companies, educational agencies, seed companies, ag lenders, crop insurance companies, irrigation specialist, fertilizer companies, commodity associations, feed suppliers, precision ag companies, and many more.” 

Other events include: Agritourism and Economic Development Sessions, indoor and outdoor exhibits. 

If it is related to agriculture you will have a chance to see it at the South Carolina AgriBiz and Farm Expo at the Florence Civic Center on Jan. 16, 17 and 18th.

A website for the event, http://www.SCAgriBizExpo.com, will provide more information for those planning to attend or participate in this first ever show.

rroberson@farmpress.com