Christmas Trees Part of Thriving Agribusiness Cluster in S.C.

Christmas trees are growing in more ways than one in South Carolina, indicative of a healthy agribusiness cluster.

Clemson University reports that Christmas tree sales were up 7 percent in 2015, totaling approximately half a million dollars. This year’s crop appears to have withstood extreme weather.

Christmas tree farms are just one of the many different types of businesses that make up South Carolina’s agribusiness cluster. A 2015 study estimated its economic impact at $41.7 billion per year.

The cluster includes traditional agriculture and forestry; food and wood processing; industry-specific equipment; and maintenance and support services. Announcements related to the sector in the second half of 2016 include:

  • Mount Franklin Foods, Sumter County, $10 million investment, 225 jobs

  • Carolina Canners Inc., Chesterfield County, $45 million investment, 40 jobs

  • Palace Foods, McCormick County, $5 million investment, 30 jobs

  • Carolina Chips Inc., Orangeburg County, $32 million investment, 15 jobs

  • West Fraser, Newberry County, $33 million investment

South Carolina has established “50 by 20,” a strategic plan aimed at increasing the economic impact to $50 billion by 2020. To help the state meet that goal, Clemson formed an Advanced Plant Technology Program.

One project in the APT program being undertaken by the school’s Institute of Translational Genomics looks at genetics and breeding in certain crops that could be used as renewable transportation fuels. The project received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

DOE said that if successful, the project could help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign fuels, reduce carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, and yield biofuels that are more sustainable and less expensive.

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