The agency that runs the State Farmers Market in West Columbia is asking to tap into a backup fund after losing nearly $1 million it was expecting in the state budget.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture is seeking the state’s permission to use $760,000 in accrued interest to better advertise and direct drivers to the market that opened in Lexington County in 2010. The legislature had set aside $900,000 in the 2012-13 budget. However, that money was eliminated when the state collected less tax revenue than projected.
Now, the Agriculture Department has requested permission to use the interest generated from the sale of the old Farmers Market. A budget proviso stipulates that money is only allowed for “relocating the State Farmers Market” with the approval of the Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) and the Budget and Control Board.
The JBRC— a legislative committee— gave its blessing Wednesday. “The interest… can be used only for things associated with the Farmers Market,” said House Ways & Means Chairman Brian White (R-Anderson), who sits on the committee, “So the signage, marketing, that type stuff.”
The new money would be only three-quarters of what had originally been budgeted. The scaled-back plan now features $150,000 for equipment and $360,000 to promote “SC Grown” produce at the markets. The remaining $250,000 would go towards new signs that direct drivers to the market, which opened at the current Lexington County site in 2010.
“They needed some public exposure,” said JBRC Chairman Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), “I mean, I drove through there two times and I have difficulty finding it.”
The Budget and Control Board will vote on the proposal at its October 30 meeting.