Because apparently the only way for small American farmers to sustain themselves is not with crops they produce, but by letting the good 'ole gas man tap the reserves under their land.
“Agriculture and industry go together, if you want prosperity in these little towns, you need balance, that's the story of my family.”
So said Karen Moreau on Fox & Friends, refering to the New York moratorium on fracking. Moreau claims to be from the “last family mushroom farm” in Feura Bush, NY and was on the show to talk about how fracking would be an economic rainbow to many small farms in the state, if only those pesky regulators would stop getting in their way.
The story Moreau neglected to tell on Fox & Friends was that she's the executive director for the New York State Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute. Translation: less so “family farmer” and more so “industry lobbyist”.
Moreau is the President and co-founder of The Foundation for Land and Liberty (FLL), a litigation organization formed to “protect private sector legal rights, so that land ownership remains a fundamental right derived from natural law”.
The foundation is mainly a property rights group that formed to provide legal assistance surrounding development issues to land owners in the Adirondacks. Moreau has a background in law, specifically in agriculture and rural economic development. She has been previously caught spinning facts and forgetting pertinent information in her New York Post opinion articles.
Now the Foundation for Land and Liberty folks are focusing on fracking in New York to try and get the state's fracking moratorium lifted. Late in January they released their pro-fracking documentary, “The Empire State Divide”, a short film running with the message that the only way struggling farmers will become prosperous again is by running into the money-rich arms of the fossil fuel industry.
It paints a picture of southern New York landowners staring over the Pennsylvania border to a land of milk and honey brought in by natural gas companies, while glossing over (actually just flat out ignoring) the facts that any economic boom there will be short-lived (as the gas runs out, so will the money) and comes with a high environmental and public health cost.
Back to Fox & Friends, where Moreau appeared to plug the film's release, complete with a set of industry talking points, including the often heard, “fracking has been around for decades.” While it is true - Halliburton pioneered fracking in the 1940s - the essential caveat is that vertical fracking has been around for decades, not high volume slickwater fracking and horizontal drilling, which only began in the late 1990s.
Vertical fracking is simply drilling straight down into the rock. However, the shale formations that contain gas exist in layers underneath the ground. When wells are drilled via horizontal or directional drilling, it's easier to extract more gas. Typically directional drilling is used to manuever around obstacles they can't build rigs on - like lakes, railroads, or protected areas. Horizontal wells can make a 90-degree turn in only a few feet in order to gain better access to the reservoir.
That means that horizontal fracking is akin to vertical fracking on steroids - the wells are longer, requiring millions more gallons of water, plus sand and chemicals, pumped at a much higher volume, and consequently much more dangerous. There is a higher probability of failure in the well, potentially causing leakage of the chemicals used in the process.
Land owners should have the freedom to use their land however they wish- whether it's for farming, raising livestock, riding horses, having epic bonfires, holding naked volleyball competitions, or just being a recluse in general.
That's what owning land is all about, however you can only do what you want so long as it doesn't cause harm to others. If one person invites the industry into their backyard, can they assure it won't affect their neighbors?
Water doesn't understand the concept of property lines, nor does radiation or earthquakes. The real question should be, why is it so difficult for small farms to succeed, rather than, why hasn't your farm turned to the gas industry yet?