Natural gas appears to be associated with falling dairy production in PA’s Marcellus Shale region, but the exact reasons for the decline are unclear. Some farmers are benefitting from the natural gas development in the area from gas leases and royalties paid to the landowners.
County level changes in dairy cattle number and milk production between 2007 and 2010 were examined. A change in dairy cow numbers seemed to be associated with the level of drilling activity. For example, counties with 150 or more Marcellus Shale wells on average experienced a 19 percent decrease in dairy wells – as opposed to a 1.2 percent average decrease in counties with no wells.
In Bradford County, cow numbers and milk production both fell more than 18 percent. This area had more than 500 drilled Marcellus wells and ranked 6th in the state for dairy production. However, in Chester County where there was no Marcellus activity, the production increased by 7.4 and 9.3 percent.
Additional research will need to be held to understand the dynamics of what is occurring. The data provided cannot accurately pinpoint the Marcellus drilling as the reason why the numbers have declined. Are the farmers taking the money, paying off debt, then choosing a new vocation? Or are they being forced out of the land due to environmental concerns?
Voice your opinion on this issue below. Do you think Marcellus Shale drilling is affecting farmland?