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How can we create jobs through conservation and natural resources?

South Carolina houses an abundance of natural resources that already contribute greatly to our economy and could serve as a foundation for building the rural economies that are struggling in today’s financial climate.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, South Carolina contains 4,971,244 acres of farmland. South Carolina agriculture and forestry have grown 23 percent since 2006 to have an annual economic impact of $41.7 billion and support 212,530 jobs. Indeed, agribusiness constitutes 10.5 percent of the state workforce and $8.8 billion in labor income.

Each year, outdoor recreation generates $18.0 billion in consumer spending, $1.0 billion in state and local tax revenue, 201,000 jobs, and $4.7 billion in wages and salaries in the state.

In 2014, travel spending and spending on behalf of tourism in SC totaled $19.4 billion. Tourism itself supports 1 in 10 SC jobs, generating more than $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenues.

Our state’s most rural areas are home to abundant natural assets. For instance, Orangeburg County consists of 283,128 acres of farmland (about 40 percent of Orangeburg County consists of farmland) and ranks 5th in agricultural sales. Similarly, underdeveloped Colleton County is over 67% forested (Colleton County contains 458,963 acres of forested land) and ranks 2nd in timber production. Successful farm and forestland owners and businesses are critical to rural economic improvement. Boosting these sectors means more jobs and increased revenues for the state.

SOURCES: 2012 Census of Agriculture, South Carolina State and County Data, United States Department of Agriculture; The Impact of the Agribusiness Sector on the South Carolina Economy (2015);  South Carolina Forestry Commission; The Economic Contribution of Tourism in South Carolina (January 2016); Outdoor Industry Association: The Outdoor Recreation Economy (2012).

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