On behalf of the Ohio State Grange, I write to express our support for the responsible improvement and expansion of natural gas pipeline infrastructure here in our great state and throughout the Midwest. The Grange has long supported our nation’s pursuit of energy independence and, given recent development of domestic energy resources, now is the time to take action and provide farmers and ranchers the peace of mind that comes from a stable domestic supply of energy to power agricultural operations.
In 1935, the peak of American farming, there were over 6 million agricultural operations in the United States. Today, there remains only 2 million and that number continues to decline each year. In 2013 alone, over 1.03 million acres of U.S. farmland went out of operation. Unfortunately, a large percentage of farm closures are family farms that can no longer remain profitable and are forced to sell their land. Every acre of farmland no longer in production is one less acre producing food for the growing population.
As a family farming organization dedicated to growing a healthy and vibrant agricultural supply, we at the Ohio State Grange find these farm losses deeply troubling. We hear regularly from our members about the need to stabilize and lower their farming expenditures, in hopes of keeping more family-run farms in operation now and in the future.
Energy is often among the highest expenses for American agricultural producers, constituting 30 percent or more of total expenditures, and fluctuating prices impact operations dramatically. Knowing the interrelationship between energy prices and the success of agricultural operations, the Ohio State Grange solicited the help of two agricultural economists at Hillsdale Policy Group to conduct a study to measure the impact to the agriculture sector from access to affordable natural gas supplies used to power family farm operations.
Over the past 40 years, natural gas has provided between one third and one half of the traditional energy used by U.S. farms. Its versatility, affordability and low carbon footprint make it an ideal energy source for agriculture. The following study finds that increased access to natural gas can benefit farmers by reducing the cost of fertilizer, providing cheaper fuel for farm machinery, and helping to stabilize the price of electricity. Farmers here in Ohio, many of them corn and soybean producers, would especially benefit from these natural gas advantages.
However, the study also revealed that a lack of adequate pipeline infrastructure with which to efficiently transport natural gas can prohibit farmers in many regions from benefiting from access to affordable, domestic natural gas. That dynamic is true especially here in the eastern Midwest where existing pipelines are outdated and unreliable. Without an updated and expanded natural gas pipeline infrastructure, Midwest farmers may not receive the full benefit of growing energy production in southeast Ohio.
In addition, proposed natural gas pipeline projects – like Rover pipeline – will carry billions of cubic feet of gas each day from the production site to the consumer. Necessary planning, discussion, and analysis must be conducted between farmers and companies proposing pipeline construction to ensure accommodations are made, minimal disruption to agricultural operations occurs, and appropriate compensation for land use and crop damages is paid. Pipeline construction is estimated to provide short- and long-term benefits for state and local economies by creating jobs, increasing tax revenues, and providing energy security. In Ohio alone, the construction and operation of the proposed Rover Pipeline will generate over $135 million in tax revenue for cash-strapped localities. Across the whole project, there are plans to create at least 10,000 jobs during construction. Companies must also demonstrate to farmers their plans for long-term maintenance and maintaining safety of pipeline projects. Pipelines are statistically the safest means of transporting natural gas, with much better safety records than both truck and rail; however companies must work with local officials and members of the communities to appropriately prepare should an incident occur.
With an increased supply and improved pipeline infrastructure, natural gas can provide farmers with a secure, clean, and affordable energy source to power their businesses. It is our duty, both as Americans and advocates of responsible farming practices, to ensure that the safest and most reliable means of power finds its way to American farms and ranches so they may continue providing food, fuel, and fiber for our nation and the world.
Robert White, President, Ohio State Grange
On November 19, 2015 the Ohio State Grange released a new analysis examining the interrelationship between the agricultural sector and access to affordable natural gas supplies in Ohio and Michigan. The analysis, conducted by Hillsdale College Professors Dr. Gary Wolfram and Dr. Charles Steele, examines two key aspects of new underground natural gas pipeline projects: safety and the net benefits they deliver to the farming community. Click here to read the full report.