South Carolina’s largest dairy under one roof may soon be in a state prison.
The state Department of Corrections is expanding the prison farm at its Wateree River Correctional Institution in Sumter County. The agency says the new building will house 1,000 cows when construction finishes in July. Spokesman Josh Gelinas says the farm already provides all of the milk necessary for the state’s 24,000 prisoners, but the expansion will help all citizens.
We invest in programs that we think are going to benefit the taxpayer most. It’s looking through that lense that we decided to expand our dairy, because South Carolina is an import state where we don’t produce enough milk to supply the needs of the citizens.
He says the prison’s dairy production will help.
If a state doesn’t produce enough milk to supply the state’s needs, the dairy farmers have to pay to import milk from other states. What our dairy is going to do is put that milk on the open market, which means dairy farmers in South Carolina won’t have to pay to import.
However, dairy suppliers say they doubt the expansion will make a significant impact on the large gap between milk consumed and milk produced in South Carolina.
The Wateree farm is currently home to nearly 300 cows. The agency also maintains farms that grow corn, vegetables, and eggs. Corrections officials say the state’s prison farm system saves taxpayers $600,000 per year, as it now costs only $1.51 per inmate for three meals per day.
Minimum security inmates who have a history of good behavior are allowed to work at the farms, in exchange for reducing their sentences. There are currently 235 inmates working at the Wateree, MacDougal, and Walden facilities.
The Corrections Department says the agency will be able to use the money from dairy sales to pay off a ten-year loan for the $7 million dollar expansion.