South Carolina General Assembly
125th Session, 2023-2024

Bill 3951

Indicates Matter Stricken
Indicates New Matter

(Text matches printed bills. Document has been reformatted to meet World Wide Web specifications.)

Committee Report

March 7, 2023

H. 3951

Introduced by Reps. Haddon, G. M. Smith, Bannister, Hiott, Ligon, Hixon, Leber, Erickson, Forrest, Brewer, Murphy and Robbins


S. Printed 03/07/23--H.                                                                           [SEC 3/8/2023 4:28 PM]

Read the first time February 14, 2023




The committee on House Agriculture, Natural Res. and Environmental Affairs

To who was referred a Bill (H. 3951) to amend the South Carolina Code of Laws by enacting the "Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Act" by adding Chapter 57 to Title 46 so as to define terms, establish, etc., respectfully


That they have duly and carefully considered the same, and recommend that the same do pass with amendment:


    Amend the bill, as and if amended, SECTION 2, by deleting Section 46-57-40(6) and (7).

Amend the bill further, by striking SECTION 3 and inserting:

SECTION 3.  This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor and is contingent upon funding in the general appropriations act.

Renumber sections to conform.

Amend title to conform.


WILLIAM HIXON for Committee.












A bill


TO AMEND THE SOUTH CAROLINA CODE OF LAWS by enacting THE "WORKING AGRICULTURAL LANDS PRESERVATION ACT" by adding Chapter 57 TO title 46 so as to define terms, establish a committee, and outline program criteria, among other things.


Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:


SECTION 1.  This act may be cited as the "Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Act".


SECTION 2.  Title 46 of the S.C. Code is amended by adding:


    CHAPTER 57


    Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Program


    Section 46-57-10.  For purposes of this section:

    (1) "Applicant" means a not-for-profit charitable corporation or trust authorized to do business in this State whose principal activity is the acquisition and management of interests in farmland for conservation and preservation purposes and which has tax exempt status as a public charity under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

    (2) "Committee" means the South Carolina Working Farmland Protection Program committee created to administer the program.

    (3) "Farmland" means land used for the production of food, fiber, or other agricultural products.

    (4) "Fund" means the South Carolina Working Farmland Protection Program Fund.

    (5) "Matching payment" means payment for qualifying projects not to exceed fifty percent of the value of the qualified interest in land.

    (6) "Program funds" means appropriate match amount in order to execute the purposes of the South Carolina Working Farmland Protection Program; including reasonable transaction costs not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars per qualifying project.

    (7) "Qualifying projects" means a project that results in the permanent protection of lands that are engaged in active agricultural and timber production and the landowner derives at least fifty percent or more income from farm-related activities.

    (8) "Qualified interest in land" means a fee simple acquisition or conservation easement.


    Section 46-57-20.  The South Carolina Working Farmland Protection Program, referred to in this chapter as "the program", is established to create a committee that will identify and provide permanent protection to strategically significant working farmland properties whose continued availability to commercial agricultural businesses is essential to the long-term future of the economic sector and to create a fund for qualifying projects under this program.


    Section 46-57-30.  (A) The committee administers the program and is comprised of the following seven voting members, each serving two-year terms:

       (1) the Commissioner of Agriculture who serves as the chairman of the committee;

       (2) two members designated by the Governor;

       (3) two members designated by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;

       (4) two members designated by the President of the Senate; and

       (5) The chairman of the South Carolina Conservation Bank serves as an ex officio member.

    (B) The committee shall:

       (1) evaluate and verify whether an applicant's proposed project qualifies for the program following the selection criteria in Section 46-57-40; and

       (2) designate the amount of program funds to be applied to a qualified project.

    (C) A majority of committee members must agree that a proposed project qualifies for the program and designate the allocation of program funds for a qualified project.


    Section 46-57-40.  When evaluating the applications for protection of working farmland property, the committee must use the following selection criteria to include, but are not limited to:

       (1) the authority of the owner of the working farmland property to make the subject farmland available via lease or transfer of the protected property to another farmer or other farmers, to advance the goal of preserving and increasing access to farmland for new and expanding farms;

       (2) the threat of conversion of the working farmland property such that it would become unavailable for commercial production of agricultural products;

       (3) the percentage of soils classified by the United States Department of Agriculture as prime farmland, unique farmland, farmland of statewide importance, and farmland of local importance;

       (4) the agricultural structures and improvements associated with the working farmland property;

       (5) the economic viability of the working farmland property in terms of current and potential future commercial agricultural activities in local, regional, and statewide markets; connection of the working farmland property to agricultural services including processors, aggregators, and distributors; and the number of on-farm jobs supported by the working farmland property;

       (6) the proximity of other working farmland properties in the town or region;

       (7) the degree of community support for the proposed protection of the working farmland property;

       (8) the multiple natural resources values associated with the working farmland property, including open space land, forested land and wetlands, riparian buffers, wildlife habitat, and freshwater aquifers; and

       (9) whether the applicant is from or serving an underserved or underprivileged community.


    Section 46-57-50.  The fund's purpose is to compliment agricultural projects funded by the South Carolina Conservation Bank and cooperating entities by creating a matching grant payment for qualified projects. Funds shall be awarded only for qualified projects which result in the permanent protection of agricultural lands.

    (A) The fund is housed in South Carolina Conservation Bank as a separate line item in the budget.

    (B) The fund may carry forward any unexpended funds to be used for the same purpose.


    Section 46-57-60.  The provisions of Section 48-59-70(L) do not apply to lands of qualified projects.


    Section 46-57-70.  The provisions of Section 48-59-80(K) do not apply to lands of qualified projects owned or operated by a person whose gross income is fifty percent or greater derived from the trade or business of farming.


    Section 46-57-80.  Elected or appointed officials of the State, a county, a municipality, or a political subdivision, or other officials subject to the State Ethics Act and their immediate family members are not eligible to participate in the program.


SECTION 3.  This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.


This web page was last updated on March 08, 2023 at 04:30 PM