SC Commissioner Hugh Weathers: Trade Update

South Carolina Ag Commissioner Hugh Weathers is here with us to provide a brief update on agribusiness and trade.

  • There have been a lot of federal payments keeping farmers afloat recently – CFAP to address coronavirus losses, MFP to address trade losses, WHIP to address storm losses.
  • Farm bankruptcies are up despite the aid, per a WSJ story from August.
  • 39 percent of net farm income for 2020 will be from Washington. That is not sustainable.
  • We need markets to improve.
  • Positive signs:
    • Completed three important trade agreement last year: China Phase 1, USMCA, Japan.
  • We are seeing ag trade with China recover. Some 2021 projections from ERS:
    • The projection for total soybean exports is up $5.9 billion to a record $26.3 billion due to higher unit values, strong demand from China, and record volumes.
    • Corn exports are forecast up $4.2 billion to $13.2 billion as a result of reduced competition, higher unit values and record volumes.
    • Cotton exports are forecast up $300 million to $5.3 billion based on higher unit values.
    • Agricultural exports to China are forecast at a record $27.0 billion, an increase of $8.5 billion, largely due to strong soybean and corn demand. China is expected to once again become the largest U.S. agricultural market, a position it last held in FY 2017.

While trade conditions are ever-changing. Overall, South Carolina is in a good position as the agriculture/ agribusiness sector continues to grow.

  • A few examples:
    • Over the course of 2020, corn, soybean, sorghum, pork and beef exports to China hit all-time highs. It just so happens that corn, cattle and soybeans account for 3 of the state’s top ten commodities.
    • International investment creates jobs in SC. With the introduction of the ATC in Hampton County, we saw a $314 million investment and the creation of more than 1,500 full-time jobs in the most rural part of our state, opening doors to similar investment in the future.
  • There are other countries that the US continues to work with for trade opportunities. Here at SCDA, we continually work with local, state and federal partners to keep SC trade and products in the conversation.
  • Agribusiness has a $46.2 billion economic impact in South Carolina every year.
  • According to the latest economic impact study we commissioned, about 129,000 people in South Carolina work directly in agribusiness – about 5 percent of the state’s workforce.
  • South Carolinians like to shop local to support farmers and agribusinesses. By doing this, the state is put in an advantageous position nationally and globally for potential trade opportunities and expansion, whether it be across county lines or across the world.