Across the country, small family owned and operated farms struggle with the challenges in today’s economy. Whether it is the expense of a new tractor, the fluctuation of crop prices or the costs of raising livestock, the future of family farms that have been passed down from one generation to the next are now at risk in an economy where one bad season or poor harvest could mean financial ruin.
Some farms and ranches have found a solution to keep farms in the family, and generate real, lasting profit. And, it’s thanks to natural gas.
With an abundant supply of natural gas found in shale plays across the
country, many farmers and ranchers have leased portions of their land for the
development of natural gas. One of those farmers is Keith Burgett, who owns
more than 500 livestock and has raised cattle for more than 30 years.
Since leasing his land for natural gas development, Keith now has six active wells on his property developing natural gas. Each well was drilled with protecting the health of the land and groundwater as a priority - all while Keith continues raising cattle.
Natural gas wells are drilled thousands of feet down into shale formations that lie well below local drinking water supplies. The well is reinforced with multiple layers of steel and cement casing that seals off natural gas from aquifers. All of this development occurs under the skilled supervision of state regulators trained to protect local groundwater supplies and air quality. These efforts result in wells that safely produce natural gas without harming the local environment.
Speaking of his own experience, Keith says, “I think natural gas production in our culture of raising cattle can coexist very well.”
The benefits of leasing land for natural gas development are numerous. Keith says, “It also makes it possible for us to send our grandchildren to college and also helped us purchase some more property to grow the size of the farm, and modernize some of our equipment.”
Keith’s experience is just one example of many small family farms that have found that the benefits of natural gas production can coexist with their crops and livestock. Thanks to safe and responsible well development, our abundant natural gas supply helps sustain an industry that is vital to all of us. “The land and water is very important to a farmer. That’s how we make our living and that’s how we pass the land and water back to future generations so land can be productive,” Keith says.
The Burgett farm illustrates that communities and land owners do not have to choose between economic prosperity and protection of the land and environment. We can have both goals with safe natural gas development. If a family farm can produce gas while raising hundreds of cattle each year without contaminated water or damaged land, then how else can natural gas improve our nation’s agricultural economy? This success gives us all something to think about.