SC Commissioner Weathers: Census of Agriculture Highlights

A few weeks ago, USDA released the results of the most recent Census of Agriculture. What did we learn about South Carolina?


Yes, we’ve talked about the ag census a lot in the past few years and I would say it paid off. South Carolina had one of the highest response rates in the South, ahead of states like FL, TX, and GA.

The data in the new census is for 2022; it was last performed in 2017. It spans 6 million data points.

Here are some data that stood out: 

Fewer Farms:

  • The number of farms in South Carolina dropped by 8.7 percent, from 24,791 to 22,633. Small farms (1-9 acres and 10-49 acres) account for the biggest losses. 
  • Farmland fell from 4.7 million to 4.6 million acres.

 Production Value, Net Income Up:

  • South Carolina farms produced $4.4 billion in agricultural products in 2022, up from $3 billion in 2017.
  • Average net farm income rose to $64,908. 31.8 percent of South Carolina farms had positive net cash farm income in 2022. 
  • Farm value per acre (land and buildings) is up 21.9 percent statewide. 

Growth in Key Industries:

  • The poultry industry in South Carolina had $2.5 billion in annual sales, with nearly 3,000 farms in the state participating in the industry. Poultry accounts for 56.6 percent of total sales of SC agricultural products. 
  • Total vegetable acreage in the state grew from 30,318 acres in 2017 to 37,811 in 2022. 
  • Berry sales grew from $13 million in 2017 to $44.3 million in 2022.
  • Aquaculture grew fivefold over five years, from $6.5 million to $34.6 million in annual sales. 

Demographic Changes:

  • The average age of a South Carolina farmer rose to 58.9 years from 58.2 years.