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Charleston Business

Weather damage and tariffs continue to impact agribusiness

Jan 16, 2019 10:57AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Leigh Savage

The outlook for agricultural businesses in 2019 is marked by one key word: volatility.

Joey Von Nessen, research economist at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, says that volatility stems from weather and tariffs.

From flooding in 2015 to hurricane damage in 2016 and 2018, weather patterns had a negative effect on many South Carolina farms and agribusinesses, and more volatility is a possibility for 2019.

“In addition, we’ve seen Chinese tariffs introduced this year on soybeans,” he said. “That’s something farmers are very concerned with.”

According to the S.C. Department of Commerce, agribusiness is one of the state’s fastest growing industries, with annual economic impact of more than $41 billion and a 23 percent growth rate in the past 10 years. The industry supports more than 68,000 jobs.

Von Nessen says that while agribusiness continues to be among the top five industries in the state, the tariffs, including potential new tariffs, will continue to create more uncertainty that will impact the state in 2019.

Von Nessen, who hosts the S.C.Economic Outlook Conference each year at USC, says agribusiness is one of the more difficult industries to assess because the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects less data on the businesses, which include family-owned farms, large-scale farms, livestock producers, major food processors, wood product producers, and other categories.