October 4, 2023

Several South Carolina organizations are partnering with American Farmland Trust to launch a program that will study the state’s rural areas and analyze future threats to South Carolina’s farmland, jobs and quality of life.

“Palmetto 2040: Visioning Alternative Futures, Launching Solutions,” is a geospatial mapping and policy analysis to identify the threats, according to a news release. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture, Lexington County Farm Bureau and the Winthrop Family Trust are providing support for the project, along with American Farmland Trust and SustainSC as the convening partner.

Using Lexington County as a pilot, the analysis will precisely project what land is at highest risk of development by 2040, accounting for both rapid population growth and climate change impact on settlement patterns and agriculture, the release said.

Palmetto 2040 seeks to identify how Lexington County’s agriculture, business, quality of life and environment would fare under alternative scenarios, discuss tradeoffs among these factors, agree on the most optimal path for future development and identify potential policy solutions.

“When it comes to balancing the need for development with protecting farmland and resources, none of these conversations are easy,” said South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. “We look forward to working together to identify the best paths forward for South Carolina.”

A 2020 report from American Farmland Trust indicated that South Carolina is at a very high risk for future farmland loss, with more than 280,000 acres of farmland converted between 2001 and 2016, the release said. Lexington County led the state in conversion, with more than 29,000 acres of farmland paved over fragmented or compromised by commercial, industrial and residential development, according to the release.

“Lexington County has long been a top producer of agricultural commodities in South Carolina, and now we are losing farmland at one of the highest rates in the state,” said Brandon Myers, president of the Lexington County Farm Bureau. “This project will help us to make a plan to grow our country and state responsibly while continuing to be stewards of our most important resource: land.”

Palmetto 2040 will convene key stakeholders in Lexington County, including public and private conservation organizations, land trusts, farm groups and state and local officials working on farmland protection. The Farmland Trust will then produce maps of the threats that will face Lexington County’s agricultural land by 2040, The partnership will then use the maps in a visioning consensus-building process that will include stakeholders representing agriculture, business and conservation in Lexington County, as well as key citizen groups.

“Together our coalition will highlight the opportunities to improve state and local farmland protection policies, increase state and local funding and take advantage of federal matching funds,” said Ryan Murphy of American Farmland Trust. “Combining our analysis and policy insights will ensure that local and state policymakers are better informed about the need to act and more motivated to do so than ever before.”

Reach Christina Lee Knauss at 803-753-4327.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *