Here’s how natural gas has helped Pa’s family farmers

Pennsylvania is blessed with fertile agricultural land and an abundance of natural resources. For generations, family farming and responsible oil and gas development have forged a key partnership as the backbone of the Commonwealth’s economy.

As we celebrate the Pennsylvania Farm Show’s centennial anniversary this week, that relationship between food, fiber, and fuel couldn’t be stronger, with family farmers, as well as consumers throughout the Commonwealth benefitting from our shale energy revolution.

I live on my family farm in southwestern Pennsylvania, and have been actively involved in the Farm Show whether through showing livestock as a child or working early in my career as an event organizer.

Chiefly important among shale’s numerous benefits to rural Pennsylvania is its role in preserving open space and strengthening farming communities.

In fact, responsible natural gas development has added $130,000 in wealth to the average Pennsylvania farm, according to a recent study by the National Agriculture and Rural Development Policy Center.

Shale’s direct economic benefits enable farmers to hold on to their land, continuing the long tradition of multi-generational family farming.

What’s more, many farmers now have the additional capital to make needed investments in new equipment and technology, while improving profitability of their operations.

For example, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a Westmoreland County family-run dairy farm, operating since the late 19th century, invested a portion of their natural gas royalty revenues in advanced robotic milkers, allowing the farm to operate around the clock.

Additionally, Pennsylvania’s special tax on natural gas – called an impact fee – has generated more than $850 million for all 67 counties since 2012, with some counties using a portion of the funds for agricultural land preservation.

Lancaster, Cumberland and Perry counties, for example, have dedicated some of their impact tax revenues to farmland preservation programs.

In fact, shale development benefits all 63,000 Pennsylvania farming families through lower energy costs, stable fuel prices, and more affordable fertilizers.

Thanks to our abundant natural gas supplies, consumers throughout the Commonwealth are realizing energy cost savings upwards of 26 percent this winter.

Pennsylvania’s energy companies are committed to strengthening the communities where they are privileged to operate.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), where I now proudly work, specifically supports the Farm Show Scholarship Foundation to help guarantee future generations are equipped with the knowledge and expertise necessary to keep agriculture a vibrant and growing industry.

Additionally, MSC member companies have purchased livestock at the 4-H & FFA Junior Livestock Sale, with the proceeds benefitting youth responsible for raising the animal.

Beyond shale’s economic and community benefits, natural gas development strengthens the Commonwealth’s environment too.

For example, America’s carbon dioxide emissions are at 23-year lows, according to government data, and the industry’s commitment to best practices and commonsense regulations ensure public safety and our pristine land is protected.

Further, natural gas and renewable energy can and do absolutely work as partners, as highly intermittent wind and solar energy sources require natural gas as a reliable backup source.

I am personally proud to work in an industry that values a close partnership with Pennsylvania’s agricultural community.

And it’s clear that the responsible development of our local and abundant natural gas resources will continue to help local, family-owned farms – like my family’s – thrive.

Eric Cowden, a community outreach manager for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, lives on his family farm in Prosperity, Pa.

Author: Eric CowdenPublication: PennLive