Fracking Could Ruin New York's Organic Food Industry

Once Again Nut Butter/Screen capture

Once Again Nut Butter produces organic products in upstate New York—it's a pretty successful company as far as organic food goes, considering you can find it in just about any natural foods store around.

But Once Again is growing increasingly concerned not only for its own future as an organic company, but for the entire state's organic industry, if plans to develop fracking in the state are allowed to continue.

Once Again said New York is the third-largest producer of organic foods in the U.S., and that all 1,600 organic farms in the state could be in jeopardy of losing organic status, the Hornell Evening Tribune reports.

As TreeHugger has explained before, fracking (or hydraulic fracturing) is exempt from many of the federal statutes meant to safeguard the environment and public health, including the Safe Water Drinking Act, Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

Organic Certification At Risk

The Hornell Evening Tribune explains what concerns Once Again's communications manager Gael Orr:

Orr said not only is the New York organic farming industry in jeopardy, but also Once Again itself could lose its organic certification, according to its organic certifier, Oregon Tilth, if the hydrocracking industry causes groundwater pollution.

However, Orr noted, “Once Again Nut Butter, we’re lucky. If there was a water contamination issue in Nunda, we could still operate here. We could truck in our own water here, potentially. There’s different things we could do.”

Once Again’s nuts are already shipped in from out of state due to nuts not being produced in New York. Its honey products are not organic, but are supplied by honey farms in New York.

“If the bee population decreases due to pollution and contaminants, honey product may decline and make it hard to source local honeys,” she said.

She added that shipping in fresh water would raise the cost of production and make the company less competitive in a market where organic foods are already more expensive.

How to prevent Once Again’s decertification has not yet been determined. The company hopes that in the long run, it isn’t forced to move out of state.

Dozens, or Hundreds, of Farms Could Be in Jeopardy

The risks facing Once Again are larger than one company. Mat wrote in May:

According to data presented by Bob Lewis of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, of the roughly 225 farms participating in the New York City greenmarket system, 40 overlap with the Marcellus Shale formation and therefore are in areas potentially to be targeted by frackers. That's just greenmarket farms keep in mind; the total number of farms on top of Marcellus Shale is much greater, though the exact numbers have yet to be compiled.

The unpredictable nature of the oil and gas industry makes it hard to say exactly how fracking will affect these farmers, but it's safe to say there's reason for concern—for organic farms especially because of the strict standards they have to uphold, but for any farmer, or consumer for that matter, who wants to ensure their food is grown in places unaffected by chemicals that for the most part are kept secret.

And, as Jill Wiener, an upstate cut-flower grower, told The Valley Table, "You can buy from an organic farmer who's never going to lease their gas rights, but you don't know what their neighbors are doing."

Farmers in New York have been calling for the state to ban fracking, but if such legislation is not enacted, the future of food in upstate New York—and any state where gas companies are fracking—is alarmingly uncertain.

Tags: Fracking | New York State | Organic Agriculture

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