Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Concerned resident links fracking and food at the NYS Food Policy Council meeting

Could natural gas hydrofracking threaten our food supply?  Just a few months ago, cattle in Pennsylvania were quarantined after wastewater from a nearby gas well leaked into a farm field.  In 2009, 16 cattle died in Louisiana after drinking fluid near a gas rig.

Here in Tompkins County, about 40% of the land area is leased for gas drilling and about 33% of land is farmed.  In NYS, hydrofracking is currently on hold.

At the October meeting NYS Council on Food Policy in Albany, the link between fracking and food was absent, according to Colleen Blacklock, a concerned resident from Oneonta who attended the meeting.

"Throughout the meeting there was much concern about improving public health through access to fresh, healthy, local food. Gas drilling was never mentioned," she said.

Blacklock spoke during the public comment period, where she expressed her concern about fracking, including:

"Commissioner Hooker has said that 'Dairy is the cornerstone of the Northeast’s regional food system.' I purchase the best milk I can for my children. Up until now I have bought either a local organic brand, when I can afford it, or milk from the regional Byrne Dairy. My concern is that the dangers of tainted water from accidents involving fracking fluid do not mix with healthy dairy cows. Frack fluid flowback, waste water holding pits, trucks transporting toxic waste water and chemicals, inadequate waste water treatment facilities, and injecting waste water into the ground all pose too many risks. Even minute amounts of toxic chemicals collecting in a dairy cow’s fat stores could taint the regional milk supply. Hourigan's Dairy Farm, one of the suppliers for Byrne Dairy, currently has a gas lease on record. I will be continuing to research and seek safe sources of milk for my children."

In public forums on hydrofracking, others have expressed similar concerns about how gas drilling could affect agriculture.

The NYS Council on Food Policy was started in 2007 "with the recognition that agriculture is a critically important industry to New York State, that hunger is a serious problem facing many families; that access to affordable, fresh and nutritious food is a serious problem; and that there are significant environmental, health and economic benefits from expanding agriculture production, including locally-grown and organically-grown food."

The NYSCFP "brings the public, producers and government together to explore ways in which we can improve our existing food production and delivery systems, expand capacity and in particular, ensure the availability of safe, fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all New Yorkers, especially children, seniors, and low-income residents. Additionally, by expanding the sale of locally grown products, we can help struggling farmers and expand the local agriculture and state economy," according to its website.

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