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What You Didn’t Know About South Carolina and Agribusiness

Farming, forestry, food production are key economic players

By Kevin Litwin on February 12, 2018

South Carolina
South Carolina / Jeff Adkins


South Carolina knows how to nurture Nature for its expanding agribusiness industry, which includes farming, forestry and food production. The agribusiness sector is doing so well that today it includes 212,000 employees who represent 10.5 percent of the entire workforce of South Carolina.

“Agribusiness contributes nearly $42 billion annually to our economy, and we are trying to grow that number to $50 billion by 2020,” says Jack Shuler, director of agribusiness development with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. “A key factor in our success is an excellent transportation network to get products from South Carolina to wherever they need to go. That includes Interstate 95 that runs north/south, Interstate 20 running east/west, several railroads and the great Port of Charleston.”

Shuler points out that South Carolina also has a good climate and a long growing season.

“Our biggest commodity is poultry produced by big-name companies like Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods, and we are strong in timber with companies like Kimberly Clark, International Paper and Georgia Pacific,” he says. “In food production, we have companies such as Kraft Heinz, Nestle, Pepperidge Farms and Reese Foods. Agribusiness is certainly a major player in our state’s economy.”

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Growth in Forestry

In forestry, the state has 270 wood-product companies making lumber, plywood, veneer, millwork and other goods, and more than 150 pulp, paper and paperboard plants. Forestry-related manufacturers account for more than 45,000 jobs in South Carolina.

According to Clemson University, forests make up about 67 percent of the state’s total land area, and the forestry industry produces an annual economic impact of about $18 billion. One of the latest success stories is Roseburg Forest Products, an Oregon-based company that is locating a new engineered wood products plant in Chester County that will create 150 jobs at capacity.

“More than 40 percent of the housing starts will occur in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast part of the U.S. in the coming years, so from a logistics standpoint it makes sense for us to be in South Carolina,” says Steve Killgore, senior vice president of solid wood and marketing at Roseburg Forest Products. “We looked at 50 metro areas from Louisiana to North Carolina and wanted advantages of rail, trucking and raw material sources, and South Carolina was aggressive in wanting our business.”

Ground was broken for the Roseburg manufacturing and distribution plant in early 2018, and officials estimate an opening in mid-2019. The facility will manufacture engineered structural beams used in residential and commercial construction.

“This is a $200 million investment, and our Roseburg plant will be the largest-capacity wood products facility of its kind in the world when it opens,” Killgore says. “We look forward to a long history in South Carolina.”

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Yield of Dreams

As for food production, success stories in that sector are abundant in South Carolina. Moore’s Food Resources, a provider of all-natural foods, is locating new operations in Greenville County that will involve $57 million of capital investment and create about 180 new jobs.

Ingredion, a Fortune 500 ingredient solutions company, turns grains, fruits, vegetables and other plant materials into value-added ingredients and biomaterial solutions for a variety of industries. Ingredion, which  had $5.7 billion in sales in 2016, is planning $10 million in capital investment to expand its Charleston location.

Ruiz Foods, which manufactures frozen food and snack products under brands like El Monterey and Tornados, is expanding its existing Florence County operations.

“We acquired our Florence facility in June 2014 and over the next three years grew to two production lines and just over 500 team members,” says Rachel P. Cullen, president/CEO of Ruiz Foods. “On July 11, 2017, we held an Expansion Fiesta announcement for our seven-year plan to add more production lines, additional warehouse and office space.

“Groundbreaking for the $79 million expansion investment took place in late 2017, and Cullen says the company expects to create more than 700 new jobs over the next several years.

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