The agricultural sector remained strong, while energy production declined slightly. Results of our most recent agricultural survey indicated that farmland values were above both the previous quarter and year-ago levels. In addition, most contacts noted that 2012 was one of the best years that farmers have ever had; they indicated that higher commodity prices had resulted in stronger cash positions. Several forestry contacts reported a pickup in lumber prices due to the uptick in the housing sector.
Although conventional oil and natural gas production fell slightly since our last report, the rig count held steady in West Virginia. Coal production continued to fall, due to declining prices for natural gas and stricter environmental regulations. A manufacturer of equipment used in the coal extraction process pointed out that while the environment in the coal mining industry had been challenging, there is tremendous growth potential for coal producers in the global market, particularly in sales to China, India, and Germany. Another source stated that coal exports were up and that a coal operator who had never sold overseas before had thirty percent of sales in export markets