Gov. Henry McMaster Signs the Working Agriculture Lands Preservation Act Into Law

April 23, 2024

Governor Henry McMaster was joined today by S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers, members of the General Assembly, and other state and local leaders for a ceremonial bill signing of H. 3951, the Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Act. The legislation creates the Working Farmland Protection Fund that will help landowners preserve working agricultural lands through voluntary conservation easements.

“Farmers are the backbone of our state, and as more businesses and people move here, we must find innovative ways to protect our state’s most valuable farmlands,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “This legislation provides farmers a cost-effective option to keep and pass down their families’ farms while ensuring that our state’s agriculture industry remains strong and our most precious natural resources aren’t lost forever to overdevelopment.”

The fund is housed at the S.C. Conservation Bank and is intended to complement agricultural projects funded by the Conservation Bank by creating a matching grant payment for qualified projects. Grant applications must meet specific evaluation criteria, including, but not limited to, the value of the lands natural resources, the economic viability of the property in terms of current and future commercial agricultural activities, and the threat of non-agriculture-related development. In addition, the landowner must derive at least 50% of their income from the eligible farmland.

The legislation also expands the membership of the existing Conservation Bank board to include the Commissioner of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, and Secretary of Transportation.

“I’m pleased to join South Carolina leaders in giving farmers options for preserving their working lands,” said Commissioner Weathers. “This important new legislation helps us continue to feed people and fuel our economy while protecting our state’s agricultural past, present, and future.”

The bipartisan bill passed the House 100-7 and the Senate 46-0.