Natural Gas Development Saves the Farm

Open Space  - Tom Shepstone ReviewsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

 

One of the most disingenuous arguments of the natural gas opposition is that development constitutes industrialization.  It preserves open space by giving farmers and landowners a means of sustaining it. 

Nothing will do more to save the farm and preserve open space than natural gas drilling.  It is the single most effective tool available for protecting the rural character valued by all who live here, because it rewards landowners for holding onto property and gives them the means to do so.  All the government programs combined will not protect as much farm land as natural gas.

Vacant farm land in upstate New York typically generates an annual real property tax bill of $6-8 per acre, meaning that just holding onto 150 acres of farm fields costs about $900-1,200 year in taxes before considering taxes on improvements, insurance and other operating costs or the opportunity costs involved, all of which can be considerable.  Indeed, a 2011 Cornell study of 190 New York dairy farms found they paid an average of over $30,000 each per year in real property taxes (see Table 4).

The same Cornell study found farmers with less than 110 cows had negative labor and management income for three of the last five years and they earned nothing on their equity, indicating the old saying – “the quickest way for a farmer to become a millionaire is to start with $2 million” – is, sadly, all too true.

Farm - FinishedWell

It is ever more difficult for our farmers to stay on the farm and unless they find additional ways to produce income from that farm, it will inevitably disappear, despite whatever heroic efforts we make to save it with this or that program.  Ag assessments, conservation easements and agricultural zoning don’t help when you still have to pay to farm.

Farm - Gas Well

Natural gas is the obvious answer, not only because it offers tremendous income potential but also due to its incredibly small footprint and compatibility with agriculture.  The newest approaches to shale gas development  provide for units as large as 1,280 acres (two square miles) with all wells for each unit being drilled on a single pad of five to six acres in size.  Even after allowing for an access road of three-fourths mile in length to reach the pad, this amounts to total land disturbance of but eight acres, or six-tenths of one percent of the land.

Putting this in perspective, a typical home on a three-acre lot will, with driveway and lawn included, disturb a minimum of 5-10% of the land.  A commercial or industrial enterprise will often cover more than 50% and is seldom allowed less than that by zoning.

Farm GasWell

Nothing has so little impact on the land we treasure as a finished gas well.  You can drive through the beautiful Finger Lakes region and numerous other farming areas and see them everywhere in the middle of farm fields.  Anyone serious about farmland and open space protection understands this source of additional income is critical to the effort.  Natural gas will save the farm – it’s that simple.

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9 thoughts on “Natural Gas Development Saves the Farm

  1. This is the true story and this is the case in SW PA. Had to have two good jobs to keep the land in the family to pay the taxes. Been in the family for 120+ years. Now retired. The small distriburance of a well pad allows 60 acres of trees and 40+ acres of field to remain low profit farming and hunting. Thank you Range Resources for saving this land at least for quite abit longer. Options would be to clear cut and develop by sub dividing or low industrial use.

  2. TOTAL BS . IF YOU CANNOT MAKE A LIVING IN THE BUSINESS YOU ARE IN, GET OUT OF IT AND FIND A MORE PROMISING CAREER. Yates COUNTY FARMERS ARE DOING WELL MANAGING THEIR FARMS.
    IT IS UNCONSCENTIOUSABLE TO RAVAGE OUR LAND AND LEAVE THE TAXPAYERS TO CLEAN IT UP.
    YOUR APPROACH MAY FIT INTO PA, BUT KEEP IT THE HELL OUT OF NEW YORK

    • Yates County farmers also have gas wells on their farms. There are several producing gas wells in the Guyanoga Valley field (Black River Formation) in the Town of Jerusalem. You probably aren’t even aware of them.

    • Mr. Seus or whatever is real name is, has incriminated himself, right in his first halfway-proper sentence, of being incapable of still HAVING any acres TO lease by the time the gasmen came along in the late oughts, because if he did own a farm he was probably one of those too-lazy-to-pick-trash-cans-or-get-a-paper-route-as-I-did, sellouts who chop-shopped it into snout-house lots to help suburbanite scum facilitate their preferred longer motoring commutes that it took for them to help Mr. Seus guarantee the eventual fracing of his own state by getting his state to beat Pennsylvania to trashing Nixon’s speed limit in the ’90s.

  3. Well, Mr. Seus, there’s a few things to keep in mind about Yates County. There’s exceptional ground north of Penn Yan which is now for the most part in the hands of Amish and Mennonites who fled high land prices in Pennsylvania and Ohio in order to find a place where the land was valued at prices where farming would still make sense. And if you do a little bit of reading or have some personal interaction with those Plain Sects people, you’ll find that the vast majority very much welcome a check from the gas companies if gas were to be found beneath their places and New York State would get out of its own way and allow one of its prime natural resources to be used for the benefit of society.

  4. It’s ludicrous we should have to bow to a small percentage of anti ##%%^$##@@. who manage what we can and can’t do with our land. What has become of Property Rights and the American Way? Have we lost that vital fight we once had? It cost our fore-fathers alot of sweat and hardship to get this Country to where it was and it constantly decays without a fight from us! We need that old fysty attitude to prevail. What do think can we do it?

    • Speak out, write letters to the editor and offer a guest post on this and/or other blogs offering your views. These are the things the opposition does well and we need to as well.

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