Legislators and officials meet with local farmers

Rep. Robert Williams spoke with local farmers at a meeting held at the Mont Clare Baptist Church Community Center. Photo by Samantha Lyles

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

Members of the Pee Dee farming community met with government officials last week to share concerns and discuss issues facing the agriculture industry in South Carolina. The lunch meeting took place at the Mont Clare Baptist Church Community Center in Darlington County, and guests included State Representatives Robert Williams (District 62) and Richie Yow (District 53), Darlington County Elections director Hoyt Campbell, and representatives of Congressman Tom Rice and the SC Agriculture Commission.

Bob Robinson, representing the Fourth Judicial Circuit for the SC Ag Commission, gave an update on the state’s first steps toward regulated hemp farming. He said the first 20 farmers for the hemp program have been selected and will be vetted by SLED. If these applicants clear the background check process, these farmers could begin producing and marketing hemp within the next four to five months.

Campbell brought several voting district maps and broke down which of Darlington County’s six state legislators represent which communities. He encouraged all present to be sure they know who their elected officials are, just in case issues arise and they need to contact them for help, or to express their opinions on pending legislation.

Williams, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, expressed gratitude for the difficult and crucial work farmers do, and offered to hear their concerns and help them in any way possible.

“What you do is important to the state and to the Pee Dee, keeping our land safe and feeding the masses,” said Williams.
Williams voiced worry over the declining population in rural communities, which, in turn leads to loss of representation for small towns and greater concentration of political power in a few large cities. He told farmers the jobs they provide through agriculture are key to stemming the rural population decline.

Yow added that this perceived conflict of interest between urban dwellers and rural towns could worsen in time. Further, Yow voiced concerns over the lack of people with farm experience working in regulatory positions with SC DHEC, which he called one of the most powerful agencies in the state.

“(Some people) don’t understand the need for farms, or the needs of rural communities,” said Yow. “They don’t understand dirt roads. They don’t care about anything but the asphalt.”

Author: Duane Childers

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