Marcellus Shale

No Security for New York Farmers without Natural Gas

Lisa Robinson
Steuben County, NY Dairy Farmer
Member, Steuben County Land Owners Coalition

What would it mean to this dairy farmer from New York, if natural gas development were to resume?

When first asked the above question, many things went through my mind.  It would mean so many things for myself, my family and my community, but the word security is what really seemed to stand out to me as the common thread. Right now, a large number of New York dairy farmers are facing dire times, unsure of what the future holds for us. The lack of security we currently feel is frustrating, but most of all its scary. As the clock continues to tick away on upstate New York’s fate when it comes to the Marcellus, it also ticks away at the hope New York dairy farmers have of pulling through this economic crisis.

What would it mean to this dairy farmer from New York, if natural gas development were to resume?

It would mean having the financial security to be able to make life easier for my family.  I could breathe a little easier knowing that further education for our children would be paid for.  It would give options to our youth for their futures, meaning they could join the military by choice and not having to feel it is the only way to achieve a higher education. On a larger scale, natural gas development provides security in knowing our country can be energy self-reliant and not have anymore of our family members killed fighting for our freedom from other countries.

Natural gas development would provide the security of knowing that much needed repairs and replacement of old equipment would not only make it more efficient to run the farm, it would also give the security of knowing the revenue is going back to the community in which we live and call home.  This place we call home has been in our family since 1947 and we are anything but secure right now in our knowledge of it’s fate.

For dairy farmers as a whole it can provide the security to know we will be able to operate our farm more efficiently, since those in charge have mysteriously forgotten how much it costs to produce 100 pounds of milk for the average farm here in New York which has 113 cows.  The average cost to produce 100 pounds of milk is between $30.00 and $40.00 and the farmers only get paid between $16.00 and $23.00.  At those prices, it’s hard to keep your head above water. See the attached table for statistical comparison.

It will bring the security of knowing that with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) operating to protect the state’s natural resources we can develop this resource that will provide much needed jobs and wealth for our citizens.  That is an especially comforting thought considering Steuben County is a leader in unemployment, high poverty levels, and property taxes in New York.  This could bring much needed access to health care, as well, and the very reason for health care is to have security that if you or your loved ones becomes ill it does not have to be the end of the world or having to make the choice between food and medicine.

We already have the security of knowing this is not a new practice in New York.  The first natural gas well developed in New York was in 1821 (and was also the first natural gas well in the country).  The first oil well developed in New York was in 1863.  The first horizontal well was in 1989.  And, hydraulic fracturing has been used for decades.  We can feel secure knowing the NYDEC has strict regulations which first went into effect during 1963, were amended in 1981 and 2005, along with the FGEIS which went into effect with a SEQR in 1992.  These regulations have done a good job in protecting our land, water, and public health. With the new SGEIS, these regulations have only become more strict in what they will require, adding to our protections.

I want the security to know the minerals coming out of my land are not only benefiting our family, but also people in other parts of the state and country. It’s time for the NYDEC and Governor Cuomo to make a decision on the natural gas debate, and hopefully one that will provide a sense of security for generations to come. We’re depending on it.

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