CLEMSON — According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the gap between current agricultural job openings and the number of graduates with agricultural degrees is widening, with an anticipated shortage of more than 22,500 workers in the food, agriculture, natural resources and environmental fields.

Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences students are prepared to start working in the agriculture field after they graduate. An example of this is the fescue toxicosis study Jessica Britt, a Ph.D. student in the animal and veterinary sciences program, is helping conduct.

Demand is high for graduates in agriculture, like Jessica Britt, a PhD student, seen here testing a ewe for fescue toxicity with staff member Maggie Miller. Clemson will hold an Ag Leadership and Advocacy Event Nov. 15 to introduce everyone to the ag industry.
Image Credit: Denise Attaway/Clemson University

To help fill this gap, the Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences will host its first-ever Ag Leadership and Advocacy Event to introduce students and others to the various job opportunities available in agriculture.

The event gets underway at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15 in  the Robert E. Poole Agricultural Center auditorium on the Clemson University campus.

George Dickert, regional lead agent for the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service in Greenville, said this event includes a vast array of agricultural leaders who will share how their degrees in agriculture have helped them in their various careers.

“We want to highlight some of the careers that are available in agriculture and other benefits a degree in agriculture offers,” Dickert said. “Students will benefit by attending his event, as will producers and other people involved with agriculture.”

Speakers include Clemson graduate Harry Ott, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, who will open the event with comments highlighting the importance of agriculture to the South Carolina economy. He will talk about the demand for future leaders in agriculture and the importance of forming a unified voice to promote agricultural interests.

Ott has been involved in agriculture for most of his life. He and his brother Mark produce cotton, corn and peanuts on a family farm near St. Matthews. He is a former president of the Calhoun County Farm Bureau and a former member of the South Carolina Farm Bureau State Board of Directors from Calhoun County.

Ott graduated from Clemson University in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree. He also served in the S.C. House of Representatives from 1998 to 2013, representing District 93 which covers parts of Calhoun, Lexington, and Orangeburg Counties. Ott resigned his seat in the S.C. House when appointed state director for the USDA Farm Service Agency by the Obama administration; he continued in that position from December of 2013 through November 2015.

Other speakers include J.C. Carroll, an agricultural risk consultant with Silveus Southeast, who will talk about finance and insurance. Carroll was raised on a small farm in Gaffney. He graduated from West Virginia University where he doubled majored in finance and anthropology. After college, Carroll worked in the investment management industry. In 2010, Carroll joined Silveus as an agricultural risk consultant in the Southeast.

Katie Shaw, a Clemson Extension 4-H Youth Development agent and 4-H Horse Program assistant, will talk about public service and agriculture. Shaw has served as a 4-H Youth Development agent in Laurens County since 2006. Growing up, she was active in Orangeburg County 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA). In addition, she was a S.C. 4-H Presidential Tray winner, S.C. F.F.A. Equine Proficiency Award winner and two-time Paso Fino Horse Association National Youth Champion in Equitation and Fino. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture education from Clemson. In 2009, Shaw and her husband were awarded the South Carolina Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Excellent in Agriculture Award. In 2015, she won the South Carolina Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet contest.

Timothy Keown, associate state director of Agricultural Education for the Piedmont and Midstate regions of South Carolina will talk about agricultural education. Keown graduated from Clemson with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural education. He currently is a doctoral student in educational leadership at Clemson. His agriculture experience includes overseeing agricultural education programs and the teachers who are on the extended contract with Clemson University. In addition, he evaluates agricultural education programs and facilities, as well as works closely with agricultural education instructors to ensure programs are growing and are successful. Programs he works with include the FFA organization in which he assists with developing career development events. Keown also is the FFA State Officer Nominating Committee director and he serves as executive director of the South Carolina Young Farmers and Agribusiness Association, which is the adult version of FFA. This group has 1,350 members statewide and is second in membership behind Georgia.

Margo Huggins, a technical sales representative with Bayer CropScience will speak about agricultural sales. Huggins graduated from The University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, biological science and entomology. She earned an associate’s degree in from Finger Lakes Community College. Prior to working for Bayer CropScience, Huggins was a technical sales representative for Nichino America and a Temik Monitor for Bayer CropScience. She is president of the South Carolina Fertilizer and Agrichemicals Association and the South Carolina Seedmen’s Association. In addition, Huggins is a member of the South Carolina Seed Regulation Board and a Bayer Crop Science bee ambassador.

Chris Sumpter, a farmer and Sumter County councilman-elect will talk about farming and politics. A fourth generation farmer, Sumpter has been involved with agriculture for most of his life. He was active in 4-H and FFA while he was growing up. After graduating from the University of South Carolina, he worked as a senate office administrator. Sumpter is a member of several organizations, including the South Carolina Landowners and Forest Association, Professional Insurance Agents of South Carolina and Young Politicians of America. He also is a board member for the South Carolina Farm Bureau, as well as a member of the Young Farmer and Rancher Association, Cattlemen’s Association, the National Rifle Association and My Carolina Alumni Association.

Agriculture plays an important part in the South Carolina economic sector. A 2015 study supported in part by Clemson’s Public Service Activities division shows the highly diverse cluster of industries that make up agribusiness — including agriculture and forestry — accounts for roughly $41.7 billion in economic impact and more than 212,000 jobs in South Carolina.