History of the SCDA

The Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture were established by Legislative Act on December 23, 1879. The Department ceased to exist for a brief period in the late 1880s and was officially re-established on March 15, 1904, as the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Immigration.


During its years of continuous existence, the name of the Department of Agriculture has changed three times. In 1909, it became the Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Industries and part of its duties included the supervision of the mills and factories in the state. In 1936, a separate Labor Department was established, and the name was again changed to the Department of Agriculture and Commerce. Five years later, the name was changed to its present Department of Agriculture. The regulatory functions, however, dealing with the state's commerce, were retained.


The original Act of 1904 called for the Commissioner to have "the qualifications of a good moral character and a competent knowledge of matters of immigration, manufacturing, publicity and general industries." He was charged with "the promotion of agriculture, manufacturing and other industries, cattle raising, and all matters tending to the industrial development of the state." He was to collect and publish "information relative to the advantages of soil and climate and to the natural resources and industrial opportunities offered in the state," and to publish a land registry. He was also to publish a handbook of the state containing "information designed to attract people to South Carolina."


A Market Bulletin was started in the summer of 1913 when it was first established as a bureau of marketing through which farmers could list produce they had for sale and people could send in lists of items wanted. Later on, the newspapers in Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson, and Charleston ran the Bulletin as a weekly column. In 1917, it became a separate listing mailed out weekly. 


Except for a brief period in the depths of the Depression, it has been published continuously. Samplings of advertisers have disclosed that land, farm labor, livestock, produce, farm machinery and hundreds of miscellaneous items valued at $30 million a year are sold through its pages. The Market Bulletin now reaches thousands of farm and non-farm families to buy and sell agricultural-related items. Each issue is posted on the Department’s web site.


In 1968, enabling legislation was passed which permitted the establishment of commodity boards to administer marketing orders. These orders set forth rules by which farmers assess themselves a fee to promote the sale and to assist in the research and education efforts of their commodity. The Ag Commission of South Carolina, an 18-member group, (one member from each of the 16 Judicial Circuits, one Ex-officio member - the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Chairman - appointed by the Governor), was formed to set up and administer the orders and supervise the boards which operate the orders now in effect.


The Columbia State Farmers Market became a part of the Department in 1975. The SCDA assumed responsibility of the Greenville State Farmers Market in 1980, and in 1989 the Pee Dee State Farmers Market, located between Florence and Darlington, was established. The retail building opened for business at the Pee Dee Market in 2009. The new SC State Farmers Market opened for business in West Columbia in August 2010 and the old Columbia Market on Bluff Road closed in October 2010. The old Laboratory and Consumer Services facility on Williams Street in Columbia closed and the new facility on the new market site opened in June 2010. The Phillips Market Center at the new market site opened in the fall of 2010. The Phillips Market Center also became the home of the USDA Market News and Grading and Inspection Service. The kitchen, equipped by the SC Department of Education, serves as the location for training school foodservice personnel. 

The State Warehouse System, which allows farmers to store cotton and grain and take a receipt for the storage which can be used to borrow money from lending institutions, was added to the Department's duties over fifty years ago.


In all, about 37 separate laws have been passed and assigned to the Department of Agriculture. Each of the Department’s Divisions relies upon the others for operation. One could not exist without the other. They are each headed by Director who directs division heads or specialists within each function. The Divisions include the Office of the Commissioner, Administrative Services, Agricultural Services, and Laboratory and Consumer Services.