The oil and gas industry likes to promote fracking as a boon to farmers and rural communities, but the dream often turns into a nightmare. Fracking has polluted water wells, sickened people and livestock, and reduced available farmland — proving that fracking and a healthy food system are not compatible.
Fracking takes place primarily in rural agricultural areas, and many farmers have leased their land to the oil and gas industry. Since the fracking boom emerged a few years ago, we have seen countless negative impacts on our food system. Fracking fluid spills have sickened and killed livestock and contaminated crop- land across the country. These incidents go hand-in-hand with fracking, hurting farmers and affecting consumer confidence in the food produced in these areas. Furthermore, fracking consumes an enormous amount of water and also releases methane, a greenhouse gas, which fuels climate change that may strain future water availability in key agricultural regions.
Farmers, whose livelihoods depend on the health of the land, face especially stark choices. Many who own the rights to the oil and gas beneath their land have leased it to drilling companies for the promise of royalty payments, which they can use to pay down debt or invest in their farming operations. Others who own or rent the surface land but not the minerals beneath have seen well pads, roads and pipelines cross their land with no compensation or recourse. Either way, the problems that fracking brings to communities — competition for land and water, environmental damage, human health impacts — far outweigh fracking’s economic benefits, and persist long after the drilling companies leave.