COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s agricultural agency has found another way to promote the State Farmers Market after losing $1 million from the state budget.
The Legislature’s Joint Bond Review Committee last week approved the agency’s request to use $760,000 in accrued interest to advertise and direct drivers to the market that opened in West Columbia in 2010.
Legislators have complained that people can’t find the new location along U.S. 321 between Columbia and Gaston. The signs will direct traffic from Interstate 26 and U.S. 321 and provide event information.
“They really need it out there to let people know where it is,” said Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, who is also chairman of the bond committee. “I rode through there two times and had difficulty finding it.”
A lower-than-expected surplus in taxes collected during the fiscal year that ended June 30 caused $15 million worth of projects to be chopped from the current budget. The casualties included $400,000 for market signage and improvements, and $600,000 to promote all three state-owned markets. The scaled-back, $360,000 promotion plan leaves out the regional markets in Florence and Greenville.
The interest comes from the University of South Carolina’s $15 million purchase in 2008 of the market’s former location across from Williams-Brice Stadium. A clause in state budgets since then specifies that any interest accrued from the sale can only be used for the relocation of the State Farmers Market.
“They’re being good stewards of the money,” committee member Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Walhalla, said about the agency’s request.
It advances to the five-member Budget and Control Board.
The Department of Agriculture lost a third budget item — $500,000 for marketing South Carolina-grown food — in the budget cuts.
The surplus for 2011-12 came in at $14.7 million less than state economic advisers expected. The Legislature had designated nearly $400 million in anticipated surplus as part of the 2012-13 budget. Those one-time designations were to be funded in the priority order listed after Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom closed the books on last fiscal year.
The shortfall meant about 20 items at the bottom of the list weren’t funded.