What will happen to our farms?

Natural gas drilling site in Susquehanna County taken by Garth Lenz.
View other RAVE photos in the online gallery.

By Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

As Dr. Volz and I presented as part of Geneva College’s Colloquia Series today – right in the heart of PA’s Marcellus Shale play – I found myself brainstorming on what issues FracTracker’s DataTool can be used to help address, and what future research questions might result from its use. The next few blog posts of mine will follow that theme.

So the first question I would like to propose is what will happen to our region’s farms and their products if an industry can offer $5,000 an acre and 18% royalties (an approximation based on recent verbal reports from owners of mineral rights) to farmers, many of whom are feeling the squeeze financially?

This is a close up map of southwestern PA to take a closer look at how land is being used in Washington County, PA and comparing that with where gas wells are being drilled. The coral area of land, where more than 50% of it is cultivated as you can see, has several wells located within it.

Since many farmers are experiencing financial hardships, it is understandable that the monetary assistance that can at times be provided by leasing out their mineral rights would be a very beneficial (and attractive) option for the farmers. But what does this new temptation mean for the quality of our nation’s agriculture down the road? How will public health be affected, e.g. will access to local and fresh foods improve or decline? Will certain land owners be less motivated to farm? Will they use their signing bonuses and royalty checks to purchase new and better farming equipment, which hypothetically would improve the quality and quantity of the agricultural system? Or even, will more events like this one occur, when cattle had to be quarantined because they came in contact with waste water that leaked from an impoundment?

I would like to personally add… The consideration should be made that this is quite a rural / socio-economic environmental justice issue. On a related note, in this link you can read about an economic study published through the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development. Below is the summary of the project’s purpose and goals.

The purpose of this project was to assess the current social and economic conditions relating to gas well development in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania, with the goal of obtaining baseline data for future longitudinal assessment of subsequent community changes that occur in Appalachian counties. The study includes:

  1. A Survey of Residents living in the Marcellus Region. A mail survey of a sample of households within selected Appalachian counties in the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania was carried out to ascertain current views of residents concerning gas industry development in their areas and to obtain information about their perceptions of their communities.
  2. Interviews with Key Informants. Interviews of approximately 60 stakeholders from public, private, nonprofit, and institutions were conducted in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Arkansas to ascertain their perceptions of current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts associated with large scale natural gas development.

This is an invitation to hear your opinions about any or all of the topics discussed above.

1 reply
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    >Areas where the Marcellus drilling is taking place are likely to contract the economic phenomenon known as Dutch disease, AKA the resources curse. This occurred in Holland in the 70's. Holland experienced a natural gas boom which was followed by a slowdown in manufacturing. Instead of manufacturing benefiting from more local resource abundance, they were hurt as the natural gas industry drew capital away from manufacturing. This could potentially happen to appalachian agriculture, especially if destroyed water resources make irrigation unfeasible.

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