Some things just don’t mix well. Like drinking and driving. Or rain and parades. So as Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks to encourage and expand dairy production in New York State to meet a growing demand for yogurt, he’d do well to avoid things that might hamper those efforts – things that don’t mix well with dairy production. Things like fracking.
At the Capitol today, Gov. Cuomo brought together hundreds of dairy industry professionals for what he has billed as a “Yogurt Summit,” an opportunity to discuss ways to bolster New York’s yogurt productionas nationwide demand for the creamy treat – particularly Greek-style yogurt – grows.
Gov. Cuomo is right to be looking at ways to help New York’s dairy farmers and the struggling upstate economy with solutions based on agricultural sustainability and smart land use. But wouldn’t common sense dictate that he also consider factors that could hamper the very business he’s looking to promote? Cuomo’s foolhardy push to open his state to the dangers of fracking is directly at odds with his quest to increase dairy production in New York.
Insight on how fracking affects dairy production can be gleaned from just across New York’s southern border in Pennsylvania. The facts are striking. According to a study conducted by Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, counties with heavy fracking operations saw an 18.5 percent decrease in milk production from 2007 to 2010, while production in counties with no drilling actually increased. “Agriculture plays important local economic, environmental and social roles, so it’s important to understand the implications of [fracking] on farming,” said Professor Timothy Kelsey, leader of the study. Governor Cuomo, are you understanding the implications?
Perhaps the most important voices in the discussion of fracking and dairy farming come from the farmers themselves. While some may feel that payouts from gas companies are their only path to economic improvement, many are hopeful of what the yogurt boom could mean for their businesses, and wary of how fracking could negate that impact.
“I applaud Gov. Cuomo for calling the summit and examining ways dairy farms and associated businesses can take advantage of this new opportunity to help revitalize the economy,” says Kathie Arnold, a dairy farmer and Courtland County legislator who has been active in numerous agricultural boards and committees over the years. “But he needs to realize that fracking would be a detriment to the very industry he’s trying to promote, as the facts from Pennsylvania prove. Fracking would act as a hand break on milk production just as we have this opportunity to rev up the industry.”
In the end, it’s all about clean water and healthy cows. “Dairy cows require 30 to 40 gallons of water a day to stay healthy and produce good quality milk,” notes Tim Stoltman, an organic dairy farmer whose family has run his New York farm for three generations. “Imagine if all that water were tainted with toxic fracking chemicals. Who would want to eat yogurt made from that milk?”
We’ve seen from numerous mishaps in other states that cows are often the first to suffer from fracking’s dangerous side effects. In Louisiana, 16 cows died after drinking water contaminated by Chesapeake Energy’s fracking operations. In Pennsylvania, 28 beef cattle were quarantined after encountering a fracking wastewater leak.
As Governor Cuomo considers how best to capitalize on a wonderful opportunity to help New York’s dairy industry, he needs to remember that some things just don’t mix well. Help us remind him.