Citation
Ambivalent landscapes : energy extraction and farming livelihoods in Weld County, CO

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Title:
Ambivalent landscapes : energy extraction and farming livelihoods in Weld County, CO
Creator:
Peterson, Cody James
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Applied geography and geospatial sciences
Committee Chair:
Page, Brian
Committee Members:
Weaver, Amanda
Simon, Gregory

Notes

Abstract:
Much of the oil and gas extraction in Weld County takes place on private farmland and thus requires royalty payments to mineral owners. Although energy extraction on active farmland involves significant environmental risks, particularly with hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, it can also infuse substantial cash into farmers’ livelihoods through royalty payments. While the influence of such large supplementary cash flows on farmer decision-making is not yet well-researched, this money certainly effects farmers’ annual expenditures and long-term farm investments, and may have major implications for socio-economic and technological change in agricultural communities. For example, it is likely that energy royalties buffer farmers from chronic economic and environmental volatility (due to low commodity prices and crop losses), providing a vital financial safety net for vulnerable farms. Extra cash could also make possible novel investment choices, such as resource conservation technologies or college education, as well as encourage farmers to leave land fallow for soil recovery. Conversely, cash from royalties also fluctuates, and may ultimately increase the debt burden and financial volatility of small farms. Moreover, many farmers are not mineral owners, and hence a significant proportion of royalty cash is never in fact re-invested in agricultural production at all. This research surveys Weld County farmers in order to explore the nuanced socio-economic dynamics of energy royalty cash in agriculture. Such insights could either complicate and/or reinforce conventional critiques of “fracking” which claim it threatens agricultural land and livelihoods.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Copyright Cody James Peterson. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
AMBIVALENT LANDSCAPES: ENERGY EXTRACTION AND FARMING LIVELIHOODS
IN WELD COUNTY, CO
by
CODY JAMES PETERSON
B.A., University of Colorado Denver, 2014
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts
Applied Geography and Geospatial Sciences Program
2018


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by
Cody James Peterson has been approved for the
Applied Geography and Geospatial Sciences Program
by
Brian Page, Chair Amanda Weaver Gregory Simon
Date: May 12, 2018


Peterson, Cody James (M.A., Applied Geography and Geospatial Sciences Program)
Ambivalent Landscapes: Energy Extraction and Farming Livelihoods in Weld County, CO Thesis directed by Associate Professor Brian Page
ABSTRACT
Much of the oil and gas extraction in Weld County takes place on private farmland and thus requires royalty payments to mineral owners. Although energy extraction on active farmland involves significant environmental risks, particularly with hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, it can also infuse substantial cash into farmers’ livelihoods through royalty payments. While the influence of such large supplementary cash flows on farmer decision-making is not yet well-researched, this money certainly effects farmers’ annual expenditures and long-term farm investments, and may have major implications for socio-economic and technological change in agricultural communities. For example, it is likely that energy royalties buffer farmers from chronic economic and environmental volatility (due to low commodity prices and crop losses), providing a vital financial safety net for vulnerable farms. Extra cash could also make possible novel investment choices, such as resource conservation technologies or college education, as well as encourage farmers to leave land fallow for soil recovery. Conversely, cash from royalties also fluctuates, and may ultimately increase the debt burden and financial volatility of small farms. Moreover, many farmers are not mineral owners, and hence a significant proportion of royalty cash is never in fact re-invested in agricultural production at all. This research surveys Weld County farmers in order to explore the nuanced socio-economic dynamics of energy royalty cash in agriculture. Such insights could either complicate and/or reinforce conventional critiques of “fracking” which claim it threatens agricultural land and livelihoods.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Brian Page
iii


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Special thanks to:
Sue Eddleman of the Dept, of Geography and Environmental Sciences, for assisting with printing and mailing logistics for the survey.
Dr. Deborah Thomas, Chair of the Dept, of Geography and Environmental Sciences, for providing financial resources for mailing costs.
Dr. Brian Page, for continuing to encourage me to pursue the project, and providing ample support and guidance without micromanaging the analysis. Many of the important ideas contained in the survey and analysis were stimulated through conversations with Dr. Page, and this project would not have been nearly as successful without his input.
Dr. Amanda Weaver, for having the ingenuous idea to use a basic spatial join to find landowners and mailing to these parcel addresses. The entire methodology was basically her idea.
My friends and family, and in particular my partner Sarah, for tolerating the stress and all of the blood (paper cuts), sweat, and tears that went into finishing this document.
IV


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION
Context..............................................................3
Energy and Agriculture........................................3
Popular Representations of Energy and
Agriculture in the Fracking Debate............................4
Directional Hydraulic Fracturing..............................6
Agricultural Risk Assessment..................................8
Mineral Rights, Royalties, and the Split Estate in CO.........9
Complexities of Farmer Decision-making.......................13
Economy of Weld County, CO...................................16
First World Political Ecology in Weld County.......................20
Ambivalent Landscapes.........................................25
Relevance/Justification: Royalties and Farm Investment.............28
II. SURVEY OF FARMER PERSPECTIVES
Methodology.........................................................33
Survey Results—Graphs and Tables....................................39
v


III. THEMES AND INTERPRETATIONS
Surface and Subsurface Tenure.......................................54
Royalties and Farm Finances.........................................64
Environmental Impacts and Farming Practices.........................82
Mineral Ownership and Inequalities in
Decision-making/Positive Impacts...................................100
IV. CONCLUDING STATEMENTS
Bibliography...............................................................120
APPENDIX
A: Review of Relevant Literature.....................................122
B: Survey Materials..................................................132
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CHAPTERI
INTRODUCTION
Much of the oil and gas extraction in Weld County, CO takes place on private farmland rather than on public or federal land, and thus requires royalty payments to private mineral owners. These royalty payments can infuse substantial cash into many farmers’ livelihoods, sometimes dramatically altering farm businesses by bolstering annual expenditures, accelerating debt repayment, and influencing longer-term farm investments. Moreover, because most American farmers depend on non-farm income to sustain their farming business, extra income from minerals is likely an important component of the regional agricultural economy in Weld. Farmers can receive many tens of thousands of dollars in annual royalty payments, especially in the first years of well operation—such large sums almost certainly have major implications for socio-economic and technological change in agricultural communities like those in Weld County.
This research intends to provide preliminary insight into such questions: Do oil and gas royalties effect farming households’ financial decision-making, and if so, how exactly? Where does that money go, and what does it mean for agricultural production, farm infrastructure, and the sustainability of farm finances? Does extra income effect crop production on individual farms by providing access to new equipment and irrigation technology? Relatedly, it has been suggested that energy extraction is good for the agricultural economy because royalties buffer farmers from chronic economic and environmental volatility, providing a vital financial safety net for vulnerable farms. While this is certainly a possibility, this research attempts to test such
1


assertions against real farmers’ experiences—in Weld County, do royalties indeed protect farming households from the unpredictable market and from crop losses?
Conversely, because cash from royalties also fluctuates frequently (similar to food commodity prices), dependence on royalties could ultimately increase rather than decrease the financial vulnerability of small farms, especially if initial royalty payments increase the total annual expenses of farm households and encourage the use of credit for large expenses. More importantly, many farmers do not in fact own the minerals beneath their land and do not receive any direct financial gain from energy development on their farmland. Much of the mineral rights for agricultural parcels in Weld County are owned as assets by someone other than the farmer, and hence a significant proportion of royalty cash is never re-invested in agricultural production at all. Clearly then, the proportion of farmers who do and do not own their minerals is a critical component of this research. If the majority of farmers here have mineral rights, royalty cash may be an essential element of farm finances and have a positive impact on farmers’ livelihoods—if most farmers don’t receive royalty payments anyways, it is unlikely that energy extraction has any strong positive effects on farm security and agricultural development in Weld.
It is difficult to discuss energy development on farmland without also acknowledging the possibility of various forms of contamination. While farmers often receive immense financial benefit by participating in energy development, they also accept very real environmental risks. Many landowners are simply not concerned about contamination, deeming it unlikely and easily managed, while others decide that the financial benefit exceeds the potential risks. Still others are deeply troubled by evidence of possible damage to groundwater, surface water, soil, or livestock, and have reservations about the scale of current energy development. Risk assessment and
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management are instrumental to farmer decision-making, and unconventional gas development on farmland poses some unique challenges and uncertainties. Hence, this paper also explores the perspectives of farmers regarding risks to their natural resources, cataloging how different farmers evaluate the risk of contamination from natural gas wells in their decision-making process.
In summary, this research attempts to take the pulse of Weld County farmers who participate in energy development, using a randomly sampled survey to explore farmers’ experiences with and opinions about energy extraction and royalty receipt. It also explores recent farm expenditures in order to evaluate the possibility of idiosyncratic investment priorities and unexpected socio-economic outcomes of energy development for farming households. More generally, it seeks to provide vital insight into the nuanced relationship between agriculture and energy extraction in the US West.
Context
Energy and Agriculture
In the United States, energy and agriculture are fundamentally interconnected. Not only does it require enormous amounts of energy and fossil fuels to produce food (manufacturing petrochemicals, fueling farm equipment, as well as processing, refrigerating, and transporting agricultural produce), but a large fraction of energy extraction actually occurs on active farmland. In driving across the Central U.S., it is impossible not to notice the tens of thousands of well pads scattered about the cornfields, signifying a relationship which is materially, visually, and socially inscribed on the modern rural landscape. In other words, the landscapes from which we procure fossil fuels are often the very same landscapes where we grow our produce and raise
3


livestock, and there are complex economic, legal, political, and environmental implications of this intersection. This paper explores one example of those implications. The research is hence generally situated within studies of the water-energy-food nexus, and attempts to provide new insights into the meaning of the tentative economic and environmental linkages between energy extraction and food production in the U.S.
In Weld County, these land uses have even more dramatic spatial overlap. Of the 22,000 oil and gas wells in the county, over 15,000 (or 68%) exist on areas designated as cultivated agricultural land.1 This indicates that a large proportion of farmers here interact with oil and gas on a regular basis (these interactions can take a variety of forms, either through receiving royalty payments, negotiating surface use agreements, negotiating compensation and reclamation for surface damage like crop loss or soil compaction, compensating for acreage lost to energy infrastructure, literally farming around that infrastructure, or any combination thereof). These interactions are important for understanding farming livelihoods and changes to the rural economy. Most importantly, this strong overlap implies that millions of dollars in energy royalties are being paid to farmers in Weld every year.
Popular Representations of Energy and Agriculture in the Fracking Debate
The oil and gas industry is of course not oblivious to the benefits of energy royalties for farming communities, and pro-energy PR campaigns have deployed this argument in an attempt to sway public opinion on hydraulic fracturing. In 2014, Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED, an oil and gas advocacy group founded by Anadarko Petroleum
1 USGS National Land Cover Classification, author’s GIS analysis; See methods section for details.
4


Corporation and Noble Energy)2 released a television advertisement featuring an organic goat farmer who claims that mineral rights keep her in business.3 The argument goes that most farms cannot make a profit on agriculture alone, so mineral development prevents farmers from being forced to sell their land—small-scale organic or “sustainable” production is seen as especially expensive and financially fragile, and therefore benefits immensely from energy development as opposed to being imperiled by it.
This same argument is made by dozens of farmers interviewed in the popular documentary “FrackNation”, which primarily defends the practice and contends that most farmers actually support (and benefit from) hydraulic fracturing. The point being that this idea has become a fundamental feature of a national discourse about the costs and benefits of unconventional gas. While this research does not discriminate between oil, conventional gas, and unconventional gas, it is nonetheless designed to assess the broader validity of this common anecdotal claim—in Weld, does mineral development indeed prevent farmers from going out of business, or is this merely a convenient rhetoric? While the claim is oft-repeated in pro-energy discourse, no one has yet bothered to analyze financial effects on a meaningful scale.
On the other hand, anti-fracking portrayals have emphasized hydraulic fracturing as a serious threat to agricultural livelihoods that systematically pollutes irrigation and drinking water and harms livestock. The popular documentary “Gasland”, which is in part credited for instigating the national anti-fracking movement, contains spectacular scenes of farmers igniting their contaminated well water. Activists often appeal to farmers (and the food system more
2 https://www.cred.org/about-cred-coloradans-for-responsible-energy-development/
3https://www.voutube.com/watch?v=ETSFuDM7OR0&app=desktop
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broadly) as the victims of energy companies who destroy farmland, including with slogans like “Don’t frack our farms!” and “They’re fracking our food supply!” This rhetoric draws on evidence that cracked well-casings can leak toxic fluid and methane into groundwater, potentially contaminating crops. It also builds on farmer anecdotes which say that the company traffic damages fertile soil and creates unwanted dust, noise, and light pollution. While there are very real and significant risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, these portrayals sometimes depend more on emotional appeal and considerable hyperbole than on scientific research.
All of this is to say that farmers and farming figure prominently in popular representations of the fracking controversy. Whether in supporting or opposing hydraulic fracturing, both sides frequently appeal to the value and virtue of agriculture in formulating their arguments. With these two extreme and largely exaggerated versions, concerned citizens frequently lack neutral or substantial information about the benefits and risks of energy development for agricultural communities. This research seeks to counter simplistic and onedimensional popular representations of farmers, instead depicting the genuine diversity, creativity, and ambivalence of agricultural decision-making.
Directional Hydraulic Fracturing
It is difficult to discuss the risks and opportunities of modern energy extraction without appreciating the role of technological innovation in the drilling process. The contemporary boom in U.S. energy production is predominantly a product of two methods which can dramatically increase output for less accessible shale formations and for already depleted wells: hydraulic
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fracturing and directional (or horizontal) drilling.4 Hydraulic fracturing is a type of well boring that uses high-pressure chemical fluid to fracture rock formations and extract the otherwise inaccessible trace natural gas embedded in the shale.5 Directional drilling is a complex boring technique which can create non-vertical and even sinuous wells, allowing access to oil or gas reserves where vertical access is not possible, such as under a town, lake, or a formation which is difficult to drill (i.e. it allows much greater flexibility in the placement of the surface well pad). While some non-vertical boring has been possible for almost a century, massive improvements in speed, efficiency, and depth during the last 15 years have dramatically increased the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the process.
It was following these innovations that new energy development proliferated in the US, particularly natural gas in large shale reserves like the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, the Haynesville shale in Louisiana, the Bakken Formation in North Dakota, and the Wattenberg Gas Field in Northern Colorado. Many of these places are predominantly agricultural, possibly indicating a concurrent spike in energy royalties to farming households. Directional wells tend to be more productive than conventional wells, contributing to augmented royalty payments.6 Perhaps equally significantly, because horizontal drilling allows surface infrastructure to be placed offsite, this technique can reduce potential local surface impacts such as soil compaction, vegetation removal, spills, decreased air quality, and loss of farmland or habitat.7
4 Lave, Rebecca, and Lutz, Brian. "Hydraulic fracturing: a critical physical geography review." Geography compass 8, no. 10 (2014): 739-754.
5 https://www.cred.org/explore/what-is-fracking
6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directional_drilling
7 Lave, Rebecca, and Lutz, Brian. "Hydraulic fracturing: a critical physical geography review." Geography compass 8, no. 10 (2014): 739-754.
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Farmers and Environmental Risk Assessment
Energy extraction always involves potential damage to natural resources, perhaps especially with unconventional techniques such as directional hydraulic fracturing. Farmers must assess and manage many uncertain risks when drilling takes place on their land. Understanding how farmers conceptualize the possibility of damage to their resources may give insight into the nature of such risks—hence why part of this research investigates farmer perception and assessment of spill risk when making agronomic/business decisions.
While there are indeed definitive risks to farmland associated with unconventional energy extraction, the full extent of those risks is disputed.8 The primary concern surrounds evidence of possible groundwater contamination from fracking fluid during the drilling process, usually due to compromised concrete well casings.9 Because irrigation is so fundamental to agricultural production on the Front Range, effects on water resources are an especially problematic risk. In addition, some research suggests that methane leakage can negatively affect soil, crops, and livestock, and there is concern regarding the appropriate closing or capping of abandoned wells which pose uncertain long-term leakage risks.10 While spectacular contamination events are not
8 Farah, Naima. "Fracking and Land Productivity: Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing on Agriculture."
In Implications of North American Energy Self-Sufficiency, 34th USAEE/IAEE North American Conference, Oct 23-26, 2016. International Association for Energy Economics, 2016.; Lave, Rebecca, and Brian Lutz. "Hydraulic fracturing: a critical physical geography review." Geography compass 8, no. 10 (2014): 739-754; for a general discussion of fracking and environmental impact, see Appendix A.
9 Burton, G. Allen, Niladri Basu, Brian R. Ellis, Katherine E. Kapo, Sally Entrekin, and Knute Nadelhoffer. "Hydraulic “fracking”: are surface water impacts an ecological concern?." Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 33, no. 8 (2014): 1679-1689.
10 Pichtel, John. "Oil and gas production wastewater: Soil contamination and pollution
prevention." Applied and environmental soil science 2016 (2016); Ong, Beng. "The potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on agriculture." European Journal of Sustainable Development 3, no. 3 (2014): 63-72.
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exactly common, spills happens on a regular basis and many scientists consider this to be a serious chronic risk associated with unconventional techniques.
There are safety risks as well, as farmers must run their equipment around well pads and tank batteries, as well as tilling on top of explosive feeder lines which often criss-cross underneath their fields (fatal explosions can and do occur on natural gas well pads in Weld, albeit relatively infrequently). Traffic from oil and gas crews can also cause many inconveniences for farming families, such as noise and light pollution, excess dust, soil compaction, and road damage. Although farmers both with and without mineral rights are usually compensated for spills and other surface damage, this compensation is not always viewed as adequate, and in any case full remediation of fragile resources like soil is not always possible.
It should be noted that farmers perspectives on spill risks are far from homogenous.
Many people have happily cooperated with oil and gas companies for decades, having few reservations about such risks; others take these possibilities very seriously and only reluctantly or involuntarily allow drilling to occur. This research catalogs farmers opinions about spill risk and other negative impacts of energy extraction in order to 1) explore the general dynamics of environmental risk assessment in farmer decision-making, and 2) provide a basic poll of farmers’ opinions specific to Weld County, in order to deduce if spills are in fact a major concern of average Colorado farmers who lease their mineral rights.
Mineral Rights, Royalties, and the Split Estate in CO
Unlike elsewhere in the West where much of the energy extraction takes place on public or federal land through government leases, the majority of natural gas reserves in Weld are located beneath privately-owned farmland. However, not all farmers own the legal rights to the
9


mineral resources which exist beneath their land. Colorado operates under a split-estate system in which surface and subsurface rights can be detached from one another, meaning that the landowner/resident/farmer is often not the same person as the mineral rights owner.11 This is extremely important for understanding the effects of mineral royalties for farming households because only the mineral owner receives royalty payments, not the surface owner (although certain surface owners do receive some financial compensation).12
While mineral ownership is essential for studying energy royalties, the distribution of mineral ownership in farming communities is not well understood. There is no official public record when mineral rights are sold, only the unique chain of title for individual deeds, and hence there is no complete public database of mineral ownership in Colorado.13 Therefore, there is no way to know exactly how many farmers do and do not own their minerals, and it becomes exceedingly difficult to estimate the financial effects of royalty payments for farming businesses. This research attempts to establish how common it is for Weld County farmers to own their minerals and receive royalty payments, and thus how many farmers have benefited directly from energy development. It is possible that many farmers do not own mineral and don’t receive direct payments anyways; conversely, it is possible that most farmers own minerals and have profited from extraction.
11 Libecap, Gary. "Economic variables and the development of the law: The case of western mineral rights." Empirical studies in institutional change (1996): 57; https://www.coloradooilgaslawvers.com/Oil-and-Gas-Law/Mineral-Rights-Severing-Reservation-of-Minerals.aspx
12 https ://cogcc .state ,co .us/documents/about/Helt>/Surface%20Qwners%20Brochure .pdf
13 Weld County Assessor, Personal Correspondence; EPA Region 8 Energy Advisor, Personal Correspondence.
10


Importantly, in Colorado’s tenure system a mineral owner has considerable legal precedence over a surface owner, in the sense that the right to access the subsurface takes priority over any surface rights. 14This means that a surface owner cannot prevent a mineral owner from accessing the subsurface resources even if it involves (temporarily) appropriating or damaging surface land—in other words, surface owners are legally obligated to cooperate with the needs of the mineral owner. So, although surface owners usually must be compensated for the presence of platforms and other infrastructure, they cannot reject drilling on their land outright if someone else has acquired the subsurface mineral rights. Consequently, some farmers must tolerate drilling against their wishes and with little to no financial benefit, perhaps leading to conflict between surface and mineral owners who disagree about how the land should be managed.15
For those farmers who do own their minerals, the financial gain can be immense. A royalty payment is a percentage of all revenue produced by the well. The royalty rate can vary significantly, as it’s negotiated individually when the mineral owner signs a lease with the extraction company. The royalty rate often depends on the expected productivity of the well, and can also be effected market forces which create competition in the local leasing market, such as the number of other producers offering leases in the area or the number of other nearby mineral owners. The onshore royalty rates for federal lands are set at 12.5%, whereas royalty rates on
14 Aguilar, John. "Mineral owners assert property rights in Colorado's oil and gas fight.” The Denver Post. 05 Mar 2015; https://cogcc.state,co.us/documents/about/Help/Surface%20Qwners%20Brochure.pdf
15 Miller, Andrew M. "A journey through mineral estate dominance, the accommodation doctrine, and beyond: why Texas is ready to take the next step with a surface damage act." Hons. L. Rev. 40 (2003):
461 ; Brimmer, Clarence A. "The Rancher's Subservient Surface Estate." Land & Water L. Rev. 5 (1970): 49.
11


private lands are usually between 10-15%—recall that because a single well can produce tens of thousands of dollars a month, a difference of only a few percent amounts to a difference of thousands in annual royalties.16 These substantial sums illustrate the power of royalty payments for struggling farm businesses.
However, it should be noted that well production tends to decrease dramatically over time, as do the size of royalty payments. A well is most productive in the first year or two, during which royalty payments can be over $10,000 a month, but in the succeeding years royalty payments will decline steadily until the well is no longer profitable to operate.17 While royalties may have major positive financial implications for farmers in the initial year, those benefits cannot be depended upon indefinitely and the cash will ultimately dry up. Moreover, the royalty is tied to well revenue and hence is effected by fluctuations in the price of natural gas. Energy markets are notoriously unstable, usually operating in series of booms and busts, meaning that royalty payments can fluctuate on a monthly basis. As the value of natural gas plummeted in 2016-17 due to massive overproduction, farmers’ royalty payments also declined dramatically.
In this sense, royalty payments are quite volatile and may make for an unreliable financial safety net—the research is designed to explore this possibility as well.
On the other hand, as in the "split estate" situation, farmers who do not own any subsurface rights receive no direct benefit from the minerals and have quite limited legal entitlements. Still, surface owners can negotiate particular needs and limitations with the well operator. Energy companies usually establish contracts with surface owners called ‘surface use
16 http://blackbearddata.com/oil-and-gas-rovalties-what-thev-are
17 https://geologv.com/rovaltv/production-decline.shtml
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agreements’ which stipulate guidelines for access to and use of the surface land (i.e. the farm). These agreements vary but often involve limitations on wellhead placement, placement of roads, batteries, feeder lines, and other surface infrastructure, points of access, noise and dust control, building setback requirements, damage compensation in the event of an accident (which are sometimes paid upfront to avoid broader liability), as well as soil/vegetation reclamation obligations following the completion of the well. In addition, some surface owners are able to acquire upfront or periodic financial compensation for the presence of surface infrastructure, but most surface use agreements do not give significant financial entitlements to the surface owner.
Complexities of Farmer Decision-making
Farming households are faced with a variety of risks and opportunities in their seasonal decision-making process, in which they have to read the market and make difficult decisions about when and what to plant. They also must navigate complicated investment choices in attempting to use their scarce cash to maximize productivity in the future given uncertain economic and environmental conditions (what type of equipment or technology should be purchased to improve the farm? Should one try to save labor, money, or natural resources?) Further, they must make decisions about debt and credit accrual, when and how to hire extra labor, as well as participation in various forms of government assistance (financial and technical). These interacting concerns create sophisticated problems and force people to establish their priorities as a business.18
18 Barlett, Peggy F., ed. Agricultural decision making: Anthropological contributions to rural development. Academic Press, 2016; Just, Richard E., and Rulon D. Pope, eds. A comprehensive assessment of the role of risk in US agriculture. Vol. 23. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013; Edwards-Jones, Gareth. "Modelling farmer decision-making: concepts, progress and challenges." Animal
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Of course, an important element of decision-making and risk-management on the farm is the chronic environmental risks which can devastate crops and cause significant financial hardship.19 All farmers in Eastern Colorado depend on full reservoirs and canals to irrigate their crops—periodic drought and unpredictable water availability due to low snowpack/runoff are increasing concerns, and a large, extended drought would damage many livelihoods. Further, violent spring hailstorms can destroy entire annual crops. These environmental risks can translate into substantial financial losses and even threaten the financial sustainability of smaller farming households.
There is also the intrinsic volatility of commodity markets. Food commodity prices can rise and fall in response to global demand, and are deeply affected by speculative activity. The prices of important staples like corn and wheat have been weak and falling in the last few years, leaving many farmers unable to invest in their farms.20 As a general trend in U.S. agriculture, commodity prices are too low for most farmers to make a living on their agricultural income alone.
A primary consequence of this fact is the diversification of farmer incomes. The overwhelming majority of farming households in the U.S. have other sources of income beyond farming to buffer them from low and/or unpredictable commodity prices, with many farms acquiring the majority of their income through non-farm activities.21 This adds another layer of
science 82.6 (2006): 783-790; Rougoor, Carin W., et al. "How to define and study farmers' management capacity: theory and use in agricultural economics." Agricultural economics 18.3 (1998): 261-272.
19 Barkley, Andrew, and Paul W. Barkley. Principles of agricultural economics. Routledge, 2013.
20 Sutherland, Lee-Ann, et al. "Triggering change: towards a conceptualization of major change processes in farm decision-making." Journal of environmental management. 104 (2012): 142-151; Simpson, Kevin. “Weld County agriculture and energy intersect in nuanced relationship.” The Denver Post. 15 Feb 2015.
21 USD A Census of Agriculture.
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complexity, as farmers must seek out alternative forms of income and become simultaneously engaged in other industries and labors. Energy royalties are of course an important piece of this diversification of farm incomes, and may be an increasingly significant portion of some farmers’ budgets.
All of this is to say that farmers’ livelihoods are often defined by unpredictable circumstances. In this sense, it is important to appreciate the complexity and difficulty of the decision-making process on farms. Farming households must navigate a variety of complicated socio-environmental scenarios across scales in order to maintain their livelihoods—this intricate network of conflicting dynamics includes global macro-economic events, US agricultural policy, regional energy development, local soil and water sustainability, as well as natural hazards and even climate change.22 Negotiating this multifaceted sector is by no means straightforward, and involves ambiguous, even contradictory sets of risk and opportunity. Energy development and royalty receipt add another layer of complexity to already intricate decision-making circumstances.
Studying farmers’ rationales when assessing these difficult trade-offs is essential for understanding processes of rural and agricultural change. In this context, in spite of the additional risks to agricultural land that energy extraction may entail, and in spite of the equal volatility of the energy market, the extra cash flow from energy royalties could have socioeconomic benefits that farming households with tenuous and unpredictable livelihoods simply cannot pass up.
22 Barlett, Peggy F., ed. Agricultural decision making: Anthropological contributions to rural development. Academic Press, 2016.
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Economy of Weld County, CO
Like the state of Colorado, Weld County has a remarkably diversified economy. Dozens of industries beyond energy and agriculture provide growth and income to the area, including construction, real estate, manufacturing, health care, retail, and government.23 Still, energy and agriculture remain two of the most significant industries for the county economy. Agriculture has actually declined as a share of GDP in the past 10 years, but still accounts for a significant proportion of output.24 Energy has obviously contributed many billions of dollars in growth, wages, and tax revenue since production accelerated in the mid-2000’s.
Weld is the fifth highest grossing county in the nation in the agricultural industry, generating almost $2 billion dollars in annual revenues from agricultural products, especially beef and sugar beets. There is 1.9 million acres of farmland and rangeland in Weld, accounting for nearly 75% of the county’s land area, though the majority of this land is dryland alfalfa, com, or pasture (which accounts for the largest proportion of agricultural land).25 Yet it also boasts some of the highest densities of natural gas wells in the U.S., with over 22,000 active oil or gas wells and an additional 11,500 plugged or abandoned wells in the county, astronomically more than any other county in Colorado—hence why Weld has become one of the poster-children of the debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing. The region produces 86 percent of the state’s oil and
23 Weld County Government Website.
24 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
25 USDA Census of Agriculture; USGS National Land Cover Classification.
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25 percent of its natural gas, making it a major component of Colorado’s $15 billion energy economy.26
Both agriculture and energy extraction employ thousands of people in the study area.27 Energy development has created significant job growth, adding hundreds of jobs in some years and contributing to some of the highest job growth rates in the country and cutting unemployment by nearly two-thirds since 2010 (though it should be noted that many of those jobs are lost when production declines and regained when the market recovers). One of the most substantial ways that oil and gas contribute to the county economy is through taxes. In 2014, the industry accounted for 63% of the county’s tax base, and tax revenue from energy companies can add up to over $50 million annually.28 For its part, taxes on farmland contribute over $7 million in tax revenue to the county. In short, these two industries make up a substantial part of the regional economy, and hence their interactions have broad implications.
Insights from the Census of Agriculture
There is a total of almost 2,000,000 acres under production in Weld County, which is down 6% since 2007 due to urbanization, oil and gas, and other factors. Only 300,000 or about 15% of those acres are irrigated, indicating a reliance on dryland agriculture. However, those 15% of irrigated acres also produce a substantial proportion of the counties sales due to their higher value crops. The average size of farms is 555 acres, but the median is only 80 acres (suggesting that some exceptionally large farms distort the mean—a more accurate
26 https://www.coga.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/COGA-2014-QG-Economic-Impact-Studv.pdf; COGCC GIS Data.
27 US Census, ACS 2017; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
28 Simpson, Kevin. "Weld County agriculture and energy intersect in nuanced relationship.” The Denver Post. 15 Feb 2015.
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representation is probably the median which denotes a majority of fairly small operations of less than 100 acres). This is supported by the fact that the majority of farms in Weld have total annual sales of less than $50,000. Average farm size has increased by 4% since 2007, and the total number of farms has declined 10% in the same period, indicating some farm consolidation.
The most significant commodity categories in Weld are “Cattle and calves”, followed by “Grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas”, then “Fruits, tree nuts, and berries”. In terms of total value of sales, livestock husbandry and processing is by far the largest agricultural industry, which is dominated by the feedlots and slaughterhouses near Greeley. Accordingly, the majority of farmland in Weld is pasture with 53%, providing cattle and calves to the feedlots and slaughterhouses. 43% of land is under crop production, with the remainder under other uses such as open space or energy production. This distribution also reflects the fairly small proportion of irrigated land, as most pasture is dryland in Northern Colorado. The majority of irrigated land is for higher value fruit, vegetable, and tree crops, while the majority of com, grain, and hay are also dryland.
The average age of farmers in Weld is 58, perhaps indicating an aging farming population and raising questions about the next generation of farmers—the US farming population in general is aging, and there are uncertainties about who will replace them. Many children of farming households have no interest in farming, and these family farms may be sold in the next 20 years. This turnover may have major implications for American agriculture, as the next generation of farmers may have different values and make different decisions in terms of land management, marketing, technology, and inputs; alternatively, this land could be consolidated under larger entities which lease land to others or expand their existing operation.
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This aging dynamic is also interesting for our research question because when farmers retire, they may sell or lease their land but retain the mineral rights as an asset/for income. When these people pass and cede their mineral assets to their non-farming children, more royalty money will be siphoned away from the agricultural economy. This will effectively create more split estates in Weld and could reduce the number of farmers who own mineral rights.
According to the 2012 Agricultural Census, about 35% of all land in Weld County is rented or leased as opposed to farmed by the owner. Unfortunately, the USD A does not collect more detailed tenure information at the state and county levels for Colorado (the 2014 Tenure and Ownership survey is generalized to the entire Western region, which is of little use for these purposes). For example, it would be useful to know if the landlords in Weld are owner-operators (people who farm themselves but also lease land to others) or non-operators (landlords who do not farm at all). Nonetheless, this data and our survey suggests that leasing in Weld is quite common, and that a fair number of these landlords are probably non-operators. This is important because it suggests that many farmers own neither the minerals nor the surface, making it difficult for them to invest extra cash in production technology.
Most importantly, the 2012 USD A census confirms the significance of non-farm income in Weld County. There are 1,754 farms where the principal operator’s primary occupation is farming, and 1,771 where the primary occupation is not farming. Of these 3,500 farmers, 2,159 worked for money away from their farm during the year, and over 40% (1,408) worked off the farm more than 200 days that year. This confirms that non-farm income is a vital component of the finances of many farming households; the relatively small size and annual sales of most
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farms in Weld corroborates this speculation, as small operations are likely to need supplemental
income.
First World Political Ecology in Weld County
Broadly defined, political ecology “seeks to understand the complex relations between nature and society through a careful analysis of the forms of access and control over resources, and their implications for environmental health and sustainable livelihoods”.29 The subdiscipline is diverse and tends to deliberately avoid coherent definition, but such work generally draws on techniques and ideas in anthropology, human geography, and critical theory to study the profoundly political causes and consequences of ecological change.30 Although it would not be accurate to describe this project as true political ecology research, it nonetheless provides the inspiration for my inquiry. While this review of political ecology is far from exhaustive, it highlights some of the primary ideas which are relevant to energy development in Northern Colorado. In particular, I draw on the nascent field of First World political ecology for theoretical and methodological context.
Historically, political ecology researched has focused on environmental change and conflict in the post-colonial world, frequently using the experiences of local smallholders in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia as case studies. About 15 years ago, some political ecology scholars began to turn their attention to other landscapes, notably the American West.
29 Watts, Michael. “Political Ecology.” In Sheppard, E. (Ed.) A companion to economic geography (pp. 257-276). Oxford, 2001.
30 Robbins, Paul. Political ecology: A critical introduction. Vol. 16. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
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McCarthy influentially contended that the methodologies of political ecologist could be fruitfully applied to environmental conflicts in advanced capitalist countries as well. As he argues, “surely no one doubts that environmental politics and complex socioecological relationships are to be found everywhere, or that researchers can understand them better by spending time talking to the people involved.”31
These political ecologists maintain that conventional approaches to natural resource management and environmental conflict in industrialized countries are too parochial, in that they usually appeal to “formal legal structures, rational choice models, or the environmental sciences” in order to empirically deduce if a particular activity is either legal, economically or politically sensible, or ecologically harmful.32 McCarthy argues that such analyses “proceed from the premise that there are definite, knowable answers to these questions, and that finding those answers does not necessarily require talking to the people whose actions are in question.” Although critical research on land management and environmental issues in the Euro-American world also already exists in the fields of rural sociology, agrarian political economy, and critical resource geography, such work also lacks some of the crucial insights of political ecology methods.33 According to McCarthy,
“political ecology presumes a far richer terrain of relations and conflicts. At more 'local' scales, it assumes that informal property relations, micropolitics, socially unequal distributions of risks and benefits, attachments to particular livelihoods, and many other
31 McCarthy, James. "First World political ecology: lessons from the Wise Use movement." Environment and planning A 34.7 (2002): 1281-1302.
32 McCarthy, James. “First world political ecology: Directions and challenges.” Environment and Planning A, 37.6, (2005): 953-958.
33 Galt, Ryan E. "Placing food systems in first world political ecology: A review and research agenda." Geography Compass 7.9 (2013): 637-658; Robbins, Paul. "Obstacles to a First World political ecology? Looking near without looking up." Environment and planning ^434.8 (2002): 1509-1513.
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factors difficult to model (and best discoverable through intensive qualitative research) are likely to be central to the dynamics of human-environment relations.”
So, in what ways is this research deploying a distinctly political ecology approach? As
emphasized above, political ecology is often defined by methodological considerations which
prioritize finer-scaled ethnographic work and the experiences of local people with
underrepresented perspectives. While my project is far from ethnographic (in part due to
limitations of time and resources), it is inspired by First World political ecology research which
accentuates local context, and is very much attempting to study those “other factors difficult to
model,” such as the idiosyncratic opinions, values, and memories of local farmers.34
But beyond methodology, this project is also derived from essential theoretical concepts
in the political ecology tradition. Specifically, I draw on the following ideas: 1) an emphasis on
unequal power dynamics in land use decision-making, 2) an explicit concern for scale, in part
through focusing on local actors’ livelihoods and perspectives, 3) exploring the politics of
uncertainty, risk, and the production of scientific knowledge, and 4) calling into question
dominant representations of environmental issues in popular culture.
1) Unequal power dynamics in land use decision-making: Because of the way mineral
rights work in the state of Colorado, actors who own minerals are given significant privileges
and landowners without mineral rights are often subject to the interests of the mineral owner.
Most importantly, a landowner without mineral rights cannot prevent energy development on
34 McCarthy, James. "First World political ecology: lessons from the Wise Use movement." Environment and planning A 34.7 (2002): 1281-1302; Galt, Ryan E. "Placing food systems in first world political ecology: A review and research agenda." Geography Compass 7.9 (2013): 637-658; Adkin, Laurie, ed. First world petro-politics: the political ecology and governance of Alberta. University of Toronto Press, 2016; Walker, Peter A. "Reconsidering ‘regional’political ecologies: toward apolitical ecology of the rural American West." Progress in Human Geography 27.1 (2003): 7-24.
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their land even if they object. In addition, they have little control over the practical details of the extraction operation, such as well placement, access points, access timing, and noise/dust control. Moreover, surface land is not always properly remediated following development, and landowners do not always feel they have been fairly compensated for surface damage and other inconveniences, yet they often have very little legal recourse or negotiating power. Mineral rights can allow the owner to extract value from distant places in which they may not have personal stake, and sometimes do so at the expense of the landowner (due to spills, soil compaction, reduced air quality, etc). In these ways, the process of energy development is fundamentally political, and inequality in decision-making is an essential feature of the legal relationships that structure land management practices. This political lens in analyzing environmental change is the essential tenet of political ecology, and gives this research its theoretical foundation.
2) An explicit concern for scale: Political ecology is often differentiated from other forms of socio-ecological research due to its emphasis on the role of geographic and institutional scale in defining the politics of environmental change. In fact, Paul Robbins goes so far as to define political ecology as “a methodology to trace the environmental impacts of socioeconomic practices across scales” (Robbins, 2011). This has frequently taken the form of commodity chain analyses, or research which highlights the role of international organizations in establishing highly localized conservation and development practices. Importantly, this philosophy amounts to finer scaled analyses and a focus on the nuances of local context—research then attempts to more thoroughly connect interlinking effects across scales (global-local assemblages). Scale is significant for this project not only because it explores the idiosyncrasies of local experience, but
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because it necessarily situates those experiences within other scales of decision-making. Farmers are directly affected by national agricultural policy and state energy regulations, as well as by complex, globalized markets for grain and petroleum, and therefore their local decisions are framed and constrained by large-scale events. While this research does not directly explore those linkages, they evidently provide essential context for the inquiry.
3) Exploring the politics of uncertainty, risk, and the production of scientific knowledge: Following insights from Science and Technology Studies, political ecology explores the role of (often contentious) scientific knowledge in producing certain environmental outcomes. While this research does not investigate the production of knowledge about contamination risks, nor how decision-makers use scientific knowledge to guide policy, it necessarily involves the competing truth/knowledge claims of different stakeholders. Some local actors may believe that excessive and underregulated energy extraction amounts to a grave risk to local health, safety, and natural resources, while others may view the same technology as not only ecologically benign but an important vehicle of local economic development, national energy independence, and even national/regional identity. How farmers generate personal knowledge of contamination risks (or lack thereof), both through media, consultants, company personnel, and personal experiences, directly pertains to the risk perception and management behavior we would like to illuminate. Hence, a critical look at the formation of different scientific and local knowledges is an important component of the project. Moreover, risk is often not distributed equally amongst actors, as some are more or less vulnerable to exposure—this research implicitly explores differences in risks/impacts between mineral and non-mineral owners.
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4) Calling into question dominant representations of environmental issues: Lastly, political ecology often critiques the problematic portrayals of environmental issues in mainstream media by representing the complex and contradictory realities on the ground. As detailed both in the section “Popular Representations of Energy and Agriculture” and below in the Justification, popular discourse on hydraulic fracturing (whether for or against) usually gives a distorted impression of the relationship between energy and agriculture. This project aspires to problematize both representations of farmers and extraction in popular media (particularly documentaries and public outreach) by illuminating the diversity of experiences and perspectives amongst farmers.
Ambivalent Landscapes
Which finally leads us to the title—what exactly is an ambivalent landscape, and how does the word “ambivalence” describe this socio-ecological scenario? My use of them term has layered meanings, some more metaphorical and others more literal, but they all revolve around the effectively mixed, variegated, and hybrid features of a socio-ecological landscape. Ambivalence describes a state of two simultaneous but contradictory feelings; in this sense, we could think of an ambivalent landscape as a place of multiple valences, which co-exist but often conflict. My meaning also involves features which are both ethically and epistemologically uncertain, as if caught in a moment of indecision.
For one, Weld County could be considered materially ambivalent in that its land has clearly mixed/overlapping uses, practices which tentatively co-exist but may ultimately contradict one another. These mixed land uses make for a visually and socio-economically ambivalent landscape, whose future and ultimate identity are indeterminate. There is also a
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broader social and cultural ambivalence around the use of this land—people in Weld County, and indeed in the state of Colorado, appear unsure and conflicted about the relative risks and opportunities of the fracking boom. Many people see great economic benefits through employment, growth in secondary businesses, royalty payments, and tax revenue, while others simultaneously acknowledge the risks and uncertainties which accompany economic growth. These opposing perspectives have already created a great deal of political conflict and controversy, especially for growing cities who wish to limit drilling in their proximity.
On a more personal scale, individual decision-makers such as farmers can often have mixed feelings themselves, unsure about the costs but compelled by the benefits. It is important to remember that people are not always fully committed, they can waffle and waver and change their minds, they can have reservations and make reluctant decisions—in short, their decisions and the perspectives that guide them are complex, dynamic, and sometimes contradictory. Our research finds that some farmers occupy an ambivalent position in relation to the wells on their land, and that many people are not at all certain if energy development is ultimately good for agricultural communities.
This sense of ambivalence is of course not unique to Northern Colorado. I find these sorts of scenarios are quite common to land use conflicts and the ideologies that shape them. Hence I find it useful to conceptualize environmental conflict as a sort of social ambivalence, in which a culture tries to negotiate its contradictory values and practices. First World Political Ecology may give us useful tools for appreciating ambivalence and contradiction in local decision-making processes, and I believe that this type of inquiry can give crucial insight into the nuanced socioeconomic and human dynamics of land use transitions.
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But the essential ambivalence here really revolves around the question of royalty reinvestment. Royalties represent a large transfer of value from the energy industry to individual landowners, many of them farmers. Whatever farmers choose to invest in, it is ultimately oil money which allowed them to do so. What does it mean, then, if farmers purchase drones and moisture sensors, and install drip irrigation? Conversely, what does it mean that farmers may accept massive risks to agricultural resources in order to accrue the cash necessary to invest in their farm? This very complex of risk and opportunity is at the heart of my research.
Is it possible that environmentally destructive practices can lead to environmental protection in other arenas? In other words, can ultimately bad things also be good things in other contexts? More specifically, is it possible that fracking, which undeniably pollutes our air and water, also contributes indirectly to agricultural water conservation and the financial sustainability of Colorado farms? At the end of the day, does energy extraction threaten our food system or does it support it? Is it possible that it does both simultaneously? How do we reconcile these unexpected, counter-intuitive, and morally ambiguous outcomes?35 Where do farmers themselves figure in all of this? This is the sort of ambivalence which will always exceed the ideological frames we use to understand environmental change. I think that with more thorough examination of the local mechanisms of land use change, as well as of the underlying ambivalence of the ideologies surrounding environmental conflicts, these sorts of layered, contradictory processes will often emerge.
35 By my reading, it is not at all a moral defense of the oil and gas industry to wonder if some of its broader affects might be at the very least ambiguous.
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Relevance/Justification: Royalties and Farm Investments
As alluded to in the introduction, the influence of large supplementary cash flows from minerals on farmer decision-making is not yet well understood. There is a surprising lack of systematic research on the socio-economic effects of royalties to farmers in the academic literature, indicating a possible knowledge gap regarding an increasingly important form of nonfarm income. This income may enable a variety of significant farm improvements, perhaps ultimately reshaping how food is produced in these places, yet there remains only speculation about the complex and shifting socio-economic dynamics involved.
As a result, it is still unclear how exactly cash from energy royalties are employed by farming households, leaving obscure the effects of energy development on the behavior of agricultural producers. Scholars have not thoroughly enough addressed the potential positive and negative effects that royalty payments can have on vulnerable farming livelihoods, failing to fully illuminate the meaning and significance of this energy revenue. Therefore, this study establishes relevant areas of inquiry for a crucial but understudied question in agricultural economics and rural sociology, acting as a preliminary experiment in an effort to better understand the implications of energy development on farmland for agricultural production.
Notably, anecdotal evidence from contemporary newspaper articles indicates that royalties may alleviate chronic socio-economic vulnerability in the agricultural sector, and it is quite possible that natural gas royalties could act as a financial safety net for farmers with otherwise fragile agricultural livelihoods. But beyond general financial resiliency, these anecdotes suggest that royalties may also give farmers the ability to invest in a variety of more specific areas—major investments which they could never have made with farm revenues alone,
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such as college education, the construction or renovation of farm facilities, set asides for soil conservation, more efficient farm equipment, or even resource conservation/precision agriculture technologies.
Due to the dependency on irrigation for production, water conservation is becoming a major priority for producers in Northern Colorado. Many conventional farmers have begun investing in soil moisture sensors to avoid over-watering, as well as more efficient irrigation and soil management techniques which maximize moisture retention and prevent excessive evaporation and runoff. This includes interest in precision agriculture technologies like drone-based remote sensing to monitor crop health and manage chemical inputs. While farmers have shown interest in precision technologies, their willingness to purchase such expensive equipment of course depends upon their financial security and ability to accrue surplus cash. Many farmers connect this to the strength of commodity prices—when prices are low, or when crops are lost to hail, they are unwilling and unable to prioritize precision technologies. Thus, royalties might make it financially possible for farmers to invest in expensive resource-saving equipment in spite of lower commodity prices.
Similarly, anecdotal evidence suggests that farmers often spend royalties and other excess cash on tuition for their children, and many have children who study agricultural production and resource management at CSU and UNC (Simpson, 2015). These programs emphasize resource efficiency and adaptation to changing environmental conditions, often including geospatial technology applications and precision agriculture training. It can be argued that the technical education of the next generation of farmers is itself a long-term investment in the sustainability and productivity of Colorado’s farms.
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In other words, royalty cash may directly and indirectly empower farmers to alter their farming practices in order to enhance resource conservation and farm sustainability in the long term. This possibility would problematize overly-simplistic critiques of fracking which suggest that energy extraction only jeopardizes agricultural resources and livelihoods. In spite of the risks to natural resources which hydraulic fracturing poses, energy extraction royalties could simultaneously (if inadvertently) contribute to more sustainable food production, as well as more financially resilient farming livelihoods.
Yet for many farmers this promise and potential of energy royalties may turn out to be hollow, instead pulling them deeper into yet another set of volatile macro-economic processes and further compromising their financial stability. The research must then consider the ways in which royalties influence the credit cycle and the use of debt for farming households, and must simultaneously explore the possibility of increased financial vulnerability through inconsistent and unpredictable royalty payments. Most likely, energy development is neither the great savior nor the eminent threat to the food system which opposing positions often presume. Still, understanding these investment dynamics is crucial to informed energy and agricultural policy. Further investigation is necessary to explore the various possibilities, as well as the unique experiences of diverse farmers.
In Colorado, as with elsewhere, farmers are primary stakeholders in energy development, and yet the perspectives of farmers are largely neglected in the lively debate on fracking. When arguing the costs and benefits of energy extraction in public discourse, farmers’ voices have not been given enough weight. This is not to say that farmers do not appear in the persuasive strategies of the debaters—both the pro-fracking and anti-fracking propaganda has strategically
30


utilized farmers as rhetorical tokens, attempting to connect their cause to the image of the pure, virtuous, and idyllic American farmer. Both sides have in turn championed food production as an essential and righteous labor which must be defended, but in the process have obscured and ignored the complex experiences of real farmers. As such, the primary purpose of this study is to reintegrate farmers’ voices into the conversation on energy development in Colorado.
By my reading, it would be quite difficult to understand the tentative relationship between energy extraction and agriculture without first consulting the stakeholders who negotiate that relationship every day. Farmers have unique and valuable access into the everyday operations of energy extraction and its effects on the local land/economy, and ultimately this problem effects farmers’ livelihoods most directly; moreover, they often have the legal ability to pursue or prevent energy development on farmland. A portrait of farmers’ perspectives and rationale when participating in energy development allows us to more fully comprehend the local decision-making mechanisms of the fracking boom. In addition, farmers’ experiences with energy extraction and royalty receipt are quite diverse, and their stories can provide indispensable insight into how natural gas drilling may simultaneously support and endanger rural economies as it infuses new risks along with substantial capital. Representing the livelihoods of farmers who receive royalties can add meaningful context to our understanding of the complicated implications of energy extraction on Colorado farmland, and thus can potentially enhance the efficacy of our public discourse surrounding the subject. Clearly, these farmers’ opinions are tremendously important.
More broadly, an exploration of the unique socio-economic circumstances in which different farmers are embedded provides a window into the complexity of contemporary rural
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life. Such an approach may illuminate the difficult and ambivalent situations in which farming households often find themselves. Landowners may have legitimate concerns about potential contamination, safety risks, and the loss of the rural aesthetic associated with energy extraction, but financial insecurity, low commodity prices, and complex investment priorities could eventually lead them to signing leases and accepting the financial benefits of energy development. The massive uncertainties surrounding these risks and rewards further complicate the decision-making process. Such ambiguity creates genuinely difficult, complex trade-offs which farmers’ must navigate—studying those trade-offs and how farmers’ choose to manage them can enhance our understanding of socio-economic, environmental, and land use changes in rural areas.
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CHAPTER II
SURVEY OF FARMING HOUSEHOLDS
In order to explore the dynamics outlined in Chapter 1, a detailed survey of about 35 questions was sent out to 500 randomly selected farmers/property owners in Weld County. This survey involved basic inquiries about mineral ownership, the use of royalty payments, and opinions on the effects of energy development (the survey can be viewed in its entirety in Appendix B). Of the 500 surveys which were mailed out, we received 80 in return (a 16% response rate), but only 74 of which were viable (the other 6 were no longer farms).
Methodology
Random Sampling/Participant Selection
Potential participants were selected from a list of all parcels in Weld County designated as “Agricultural” which also have an active oil or gas well on the property. This information was determined through a simple GIS analysis. Parcel data was downloaded as a polygon shapefile from the Weld County GIS Department website, which is freely available for public use; well locations/status data is available for download as a point shapefile at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) website. Parcels designated as Agricultural were selected and exported, as were wells designated as Active or Drilling (as opposed to the tens of thousands of plugged and/or abandoned wells in the county, which do not produce royalty revenue). Utilizing a basic spatial join, I used these selections to further subset only the Agricultural parcels which had an Active well point in their boundaries. I then exported the resulting layer’s table as an Excel spreadsheet, the equivalent of a list of addresses in Weld County where farming and energy extraction overlap spatially (about 4500 parcels). This list can be easily randomized
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in Excel by using the ()Rand function to generate random numbers between 0 and 1 for each row, and then sorting the rows top to bottom. The first 500 address became our participants to which we mailed a copy of the survey, as well as a stamped and addressed return envelope. Respondents also had the option of filling out the survey online (though none opted to do so).
In spite of the difficulties of cold mailing potential participants, we decided this was a reasonable method for 2 reasons: 1) it is simpler and less time consuming than attempting to build brand new networks to connect to participants, and given our very real limitations of time and resources to complete the project, we decided we would actually contact more potential participants through a random sample than a network of acquaintances, and 2) we thought it was important that the sample was truly random. While Dr. Weaver had previously done interview work in this area and maintained contacts there which we could have used to build a network, we wondered if some of these individuals were politically inclined or socio-economically homogenous in a way that could distort our results through the classic snowball effect. In order to preserve the integrity and relative objectivity of our survey results, we opted for a random selection process.
That being said, the process was not strictly random, insofar as I manually filtered out parcels that were quite evidently owned by non-agricultural entities, such as energy extraction companies or land trusts. While these participants may have had interesting and insightful contributions, and while they may have maintained some sort of agricultural land use on their parcel, this research really focuses on farming businesses and households. In order to maximize our relevant response rate, I removed non-agricultural owners from the list and replaced them with addresses who had only an individual’s name or were clearly a farming LLC, and thus were
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more likely to be of our target audience. Nonetheless, the fact that so many parcels which were designated as Agricultural were in actuality owned by non-agricultural entities is an important insight in its own right—these implications are explored in the Results section below.
The survey specifically targets landowners who continue to actively farm in high-density extraction areas—land no longer under cultivation was not considered relevant for our purposes, as those royalties are presumably not invested in farming. Hence the survey asks participants whose land is not cultivated to disregard. Initially we had also planned to survey only those farmers who possess subsurface mineral resources and receive significant revenue as royalties. But upon realizing that the distribution of mineral ownership in Weld County is not well-studied, we decided that the survey could be used to approximate the proportion of mineral ownership in farming communities (an essential bit of information for understanding the effect or lack of effect of royalties for farming businesses). Moreover, we came to understand that the experiences of farmers who do not own their minerals are both interesting and important, as farmers without rights are subject to many of the same environmental risks/inconveniences but without the negotiating privileges or financial benefit. Indeed, this potential inequality and conflict became a significant component of the research.
Survey Design and Rationale
The survey is designed as a detailed qualitative questionnaire that highlights the respondents’ individual stories, perspectives, and opinions. It attempts to approximate the potential influence of royalties on investment decisions, based entirely on participants’ own qualitative descriptions of their personal experiences and decision-making rationale in the context of oil and gas royalties. The survey asks them to list items they have invested in using
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royalty cash, but does not ask for any concrete details on the dates or amounts of these expenses. Thus, the data collection primarily concerned participants’ perception of royalties and extraction rather than an analysis of quantifiable financial, legal, or environmental dynamics.
In order to enhance qualitative information, the survey contains many opportunities for write-ins where the respondent can clarify and elaborate on their responses (most questions are followed by a “why or why not?” question where the participant is prompted to explain their opinion). Though some participants neglected to expand upon their positions, many gave extremely thorough and even impassioned responses—we were pleasantly surprised by the density of qualitative information contained in the write-in questions. Often these took the form of generalized stories of their personal experiences, ranging from irrigation and tractor purchases to problems with company traffic to sending children to college and even personal conflicts amongst landowners. Initially, I had planned to conduct 5-10 semi-structured interviews to provide more detailed personal context for the surveys, as well as to enhance the human elements of the research. However, due to the detail, quality, and voice of the survey write-in responses (as well as other practical constraints), we decide to construct our analysis from the survey data alone.
The survey design in part follows from the political ecology inspiration described in Chapter 1, which emphasizes humanistic investigations into local experience rather than objective, data-oriented analysis. Although political ecology work is often more genuinely ethnographic, involving intensive fieldwork and participant observation, the philosophy of accentuating idiosyncratic local experiences can nonetheless be applied to survey design. In this sense, the research is designed to explore farmers ’ subjective experiences and perspectives more
36


than to deduce any empirical truth about the financial dynamics involved. While there are practical limitations to this approach, such qualitative data can nonetheless give fresh and critical insights into these land use and socio-economic phenomena.
I also elected not to attempt to quantify the dollar amounts received or spent in relation to royalties because this could be considered sensitive information; potential participants may have been reluctant to share private financial details, especially when it involves a controversial industry (by my reading, being asked how much money one receives from the oil and gas company by a total stranger is bound to make many people uncomfortable and uncertain). Based on Dr. Page’s previous research experiences with farmers elsewhere in the US, we anticipated that some farmers may be inherently skeptical of a University of Colorado survey on energy development and thus may be unwilling to participate in a survey that requested too much personal information. This assumption was in part confirmed by survey respondents who opted not to answer even general questions about their finances, stating that such information was “private” (however, many others were quite forthcoming with details regarding their business, and were not at all concerned about anonymity). Similarly, we did not include questions regarding demographic information in the survey in order to avoid any perceived invasions of privacy, and hence the survey is entirely anonymous unless a participant opted to identify themselves.
Because of these concerns, we decided that potential participants would be more receptive if we simply asked them for their stories and opinions rather than to disclose their tax returns or expense receipts. Further, most demographic information was not immediately relevant to our essential research question anyways (although knowing the age and gender of
37


respondents could provide very interesting context, it was not necessary to answer our central inquiry). Moreover, as explained above, because we intended to emphasize farmers’ personal experiences rather than quantifiable economic behavior, this type of financial and demographic data was not crucial for our research objectives to begin with.
Relatedly, we also worked hard to maintain an unbiased tone throughout the introductory letter as well as the survey (such as ensuring the survey questions did not suggest that hydraulic fracturing definitely pollutes natural resources, for example). Energy development and particularly the use of hydraulic fracturing is a contentious and politically fraught topic in much of Northern Colorado, and it was important that surveyed farmers did not perceive our research as in any way ideologically antagonistic to their interests. Or put another way, this research is premised upon a fairly straightforward inquiry, and while skeptical, it is not necessarily antagonistic to energy development in principle. It was important that we communicated this largely neutral stance on energy development itself in order to build rapport and maximize farmer participation. If individuals thought we intended to use their stories to criticize a practice that they ultimately agree with (and benefit from), they may be less likely to participate. Instead, we simply emphasized that farmers’ perspectives are vitally important and undervalued, regardless of one’s opinion about energy development. These are all examples of the sort of ideological realities we had to navigate in designing our survey.
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Survey Results: Graphs and Tables
General Questions
Q1 - Is your land actively cultivated?
Yea, my family and I farm it.
Yea, but not by me—I lease it to another person who farms it
No {if nor please do not complete or submit this survey).
0 5 10
20
25
30
35
I
40
45
50
Figure 1. Survey responses regarding cultivation and farm leasing.
Q3 - What crops do you grow on your farm? (Check all that apply)
Soy â–  I
Alfalfa/Hay
Vegetables
Other (p lease indicate)
10 15
I
20
I
25
I
30
I
35
40 45 50 55
I
60
Figure 2. Survey responses regarding crops cultivated.
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Q4 - Generally, in the last 5 years commodity prices have been...
0 High ® Low ® Average/medium ® Always changing/fluctuating
Figure 3. Survey responses regarding trends in farm commodity prices.
Q5 - Do you own the mineral rights to your land and receive royalties from the extraction company?
Yea (if Yea, please answer only Part 1, Questions 6 - 32)
I.- : 'I . ‘‘ST^
•. - . i i ■ 1 •
i i i i i i i i i i i r~
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60
Figure 4. Survey responses regarding mineral ownership.
Do you own the mineral rights to your land and receive royalties from the extraction company?
Yes No Total
Farmer 32 14 46
Lessor 22 6 28
Total 54 20 74
Table 1. Compares mineral ownership to leasing rates—as can be seen, nonfarming landlords are more likely to also own mineral rights.
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Mineral Owners
Oil - Would you say that these energy royalties have significantly affected your finances as a business?
65% 28%
Yes No
â–  Yes â– No â–  Not sure
Figure 5. Survey responses regarding royalties and changes in farm finances.
Would you say that royalties have significantly affected your finances as a farming business? Have royalties helped buffer you financially from low prices?
Yes No Not sure Total Yes Sort of No Total
Farmer 25 7 0 32 25 4 3 32
Lessor 10 8 4 22 13 3 4 20
Total 35 15 4 54 38 7 7 52
Table 2. Breaks down responses according to whether the mineral owner farms or leases the land. This is important because non-farming mineral owners will have different perspectives on agriculture than farmers.
Q10 - In your experience, how frequently does the money you receive change or fluctuate?
Very often
Occasionally
Not very often
I
10
“I
15
I
20
I
25
I
30
Figure 6. Survey responses regarding fluctuations in royalty payment amounts.
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Q11 - Generally, what sorts of things have you spent your money from energy royalties on? (Check all that apply)
Farm equipment
Farm structures
Irrigation
technology
College tuition
Savings
Debt repayment
Leisu re or personal expenses (vacations, electronics, etc.)
Other (p lease indicate)
Figure 7. Survey responses regarding farm expenditures using royalty cash.
What things have you spent your money from energy royalties on?
Equip. Struct. Irrig. Tuition Savings Debt Leisure Other Tot.
Farmer 21 19 19 9 15 18 13 1 31
Lessor 7 8 4 3 7 9 4 5 21
Total 28 27 23 12 22 27 17 6 52
Table 3. Breaks down investment decisions by farmer/lessor. Notice how nonfarmers still invest in production.
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Q12 - Were these things purchased on credit (loan/debt) or with cash?
60% 28%
Cash Both
â–  Cash (60%) â–  Loan/credit (12%) â–  Both (28%)
Figure 8. Survey responses regarding the use of credit for farm purchases.
Q13 - Have you ever purchased or used ''precision agriculture" technology such as drones, imagery analysis, GPS, moisture sensors, high-tech tractors, etc.?
I I I I I I I
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
Figure 9. Survey responses regarding the use of precision tech on their farm.
Have you ever used “precision agriculture'’ technology? Do royalties make precision tech, more affordable?
Yes Very little No Total Yes Maybe No Total
Farmer 16 0 16 32 16 12 4 32
Lessor 5 0 16 21 13 7 1 21
Total 21 0 32 53 29 19 5 53
Table 4. Separates experience and opinions on precision tech by farmer/lessor.
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Figure 10. Survey responses regarding familiarity with precision tech. Q15 - Have you ever considered purchasing or trying these technologies?
15.09%
BVes ® Maybe Q No
Figure 11. Survey responses regarding interest in precision tech.
Figure 12. Survey responses regarding royalties and affordability of precision tech.
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Q18 - Do you have a child in college, or who will soon go to college?
35-
30-
25-
20-
15-
10-
5—|
0-
Figure 13. Survey responses regarding children’s higher education.
Figure 14. Survey responses regarding children’s interest in farming.
Figure 15. Survey responses regarding royalties and the affordability of college.
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Figure 16. Survey responses regarding royalties and poor commodity markets.
Q24 - Has your farm or farming practice changed in any way since the wells were established?
49% 49%
Yes No
â–  Yes â–  Sort of BNo
Figure 17. Survey responses regarding changes in farming practices.
Has your farming practice changed since the wells were established?
Yes Sort of No Total
Farmer 22 1 9 32
Lessor 4 0 17 21
Total 26 1 26 53
Table 5. Changes in farming practices broken down by farmer/lessor. Clearly the majority of farmers have modified their farming practices due to the wells/royalties.
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Q26 - Are you more likely to leave land fallow for soil recovery or other purposes because you receive royalty payments?
i i i i i i i i r
O 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
Figure 18. Survey responses regarding soil decision-making and fallow.
Figure 19. Survey responses regarding contamination risk from fracking wells.
Do the wells on your land pose any risk to your business?
Yes Maybe No Not sure Total
Mineral Owner 5 8 38 2 53
Non-mineral Owner 7 2 9 2 20
Total 12 10 47 4 73
Table 6. Compares opinions on risk by mineral ownership.
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Is hydraulic fracturing or fracking a serious risk to agricultural resources? Do the wells on your land pose any risk to your business?
Yes Maybe No Not sure Total Yes Maybe No Not sure Total
Farmer 2 4 23 3 32 1 6 24 1 32
Lessor 3 3 15 0 21 4 2 14 1 21
Total 5 7 38 3 53 5 8 38 2 53
Table 7. Separates perspectives on risk according to farmer/lessor.
Q28 - Do you believe that the oil/natural gas wells on your land pose any risk to your farming business?
Maybe
10
20
25
30
35
40
Figure 20. Survey responses regarding general risk to the farming business from wells.
Q30 - In your experience, has energy development negatively impacted your land, business, or family?
21% 74%
Yes No
â–  Yes (21%) â–  Not sure (6%) â–  No (74%)
Figure 21. Survey responses regarding negative impacts to farmland from wells.
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Mineral Owners: Has energy development negatively impacted your land? Non-Mineral Owners: Has energy development negatively impacted your land?
Yes Not sure No Total Yes Not sure No Total
Farmer 9 2 21 32 12 1 6 19
Lessor 2 1 18 21 4 1 6 11
Total 11 3 39 53 16 2 12 30
Table 8. This table illustrates that non-mineral owners, particularly non-mineral owning farmers, were significantly more likely to report negative impacts from energy development.
Q32 - In your experience, is there any tension or disagreements between landowners who do own mineral rights and farmers who do not?
BYes | Maybe B No 0 Not sure
Figure 22. Survey responses regarding tension between mineral and non-mineral owners.
Q34 - Where do you tend to get information on energy extraction or hydraulic fracturing, such as safety and environmental regulations? (Check all that apply)
The news media /internet (please indicate sources)
friervds/acquaintance
Energy company partners
USDA Farm S
{government)
Figure 23. Survey responses regarding information sources for contamination risk
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Non-mineral Owners
Figure 24. Survey responses regarding the possession of a surface use agreement.
Q36 - Generally, what does that Surface Use Agreement entail? (check all that apply)
Guaranteed upfront financial compensation.
Financial compensation in the event of a spill or accident.
Restrictions on the placement of surface infrastructure.
Restriction on the times and places where trucks can access your land.
Measures to limit noise, dust, odors, or other impacts.
Not Sure
Other
Figure 25. Survey responses regarding stipulations of their surface use agreement.
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Q37 - In your experience, has energy development negatively impacted your land, business, or family?
Figure 26. Survey responses regarding negative impacts to farmland from wells.
Figure 27. Survey responses regarding any positive impacts to farm from the wells.
Has energy development negatively impacted your business? Has energy development positively impacted your business?
Yes Not sure No Total Yes Not sure No Total
Farmed 12 1 6 19 8 5 8 21
Leased 4 1 6 11 6 1 4 11
Total 16 2 12 30 14 6 12 32
Table 9. Separates non-mineral owners perspectives on risk by farmer/lessor
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Q41 - Do you believe that the oil/natural gas wells on your land pose any risk to your farming business?
0 Yes 0 Maybe 0 No 0 Not sure
Figure 28. Survey responses regarding risk to farmland from wells.
Q43 - In your opinion, is hydraulic fracturing or fracking a serious risk to agricultural resources like soil and water?
B Yes B Maybe 0 No 0 Not sure
Figure 29. Survey responses regarding risk of contamination from hydraulic fracturing.
Figure 30. Survey responses regarding positive implications of energy extraction more generally.
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Q46 - In your experience, is there any tension or disagreements between landowners who do own mineral rights and farmers who do not?
28% 20% 24% 28%
Yes Maybe No Not sure
â–  Yes (7) â–  Maybe (5) â– No(6) â–  Not sure (7)
Figure 31. Survey responses regarding tensions between ownership groups.
Q48 - Would your opinion about energy development on your land be different if you personally owned the mineral rights and received direct financial compensation?
Figure 32. Survey responses regarding the role of royalties in their perspective on energy
extraction.
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CHAPTER III
THEMES AND INTERPRETATIONS
This section outlines the major themes which emerge from the survey responses presented above. The themes are broken into 4 main categories: Surface and Subsurface Tenure, Royalties and Farm Finances, Environmental Impacts and Farming Practices, and Mineral Ownership and Inequalities in Decision-making/Positive Impacts. These interpretations are often somewhat speculative, as our small sample size and limited questionnaire can give only preliminary insight into the broader farmer experience in Weld. Nonetheless, 75 people is not an insignificant sample of experiences, and many of our interpretations are corroborated by contextual research, such as data from the USD A Census of Agriculture and anecdotes from regional journalism. Each subsection will refer to the questions/tables from which the interpretations were derived for reference.
Surface and Subsurface Tenure
Because of how mineral rights are legally defined, the question of tenure is pivotal to all other dynamics surrounding energy extraction on farmland. As explained in the Context section (as well as the section on the relevance of political ecology) of Chapter 1, mineral owners have greater decision-making power and receive immense personal benefit from extraction, whereas non-mineral owners must tolerate damages and risks with little personal gain. But another important component of tenure is surface leasing—we know that many agricultural parcels in Weld are farmed by a tenant, but the actual surface (and often subsurface) rights belong to a nonfarming landlord. This of course has implications for investment choices and the application of
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royalty cash to agricultural production. Hence, the general problem of legal ownership is absolutely crucial to the local political and financial dynamics of energy extraction.
Mineral ownership
If the guiding question of this research is whether or not energy royalties significantly improve farmers’ livelihoods, we must first determine the distribution of actual mineral ownership in the region. Because farmers can only benefit from royalties if they own mineral rights, any claim that energy development directly supports the agricultural economy necessarily assumes that most farmers are also mineral owners. However, this is not necessarily true; indeed, the distribution of mineral rights in Weld and elsewhere in the West is not very well understood.
It is difficult to determine how many parcels in Weld County are split estates because tenure information is organized by individual chain of title and not compiled in a way that allows for systematic comparison of surface vs. subsurface ownership across the entire county. Oil and gas companies have their own property consultants which locate the relevant surface and mineral rights for individual parcels of interest, but do not compile this info into a public database.36 Further, Weld County only records names and addresses for mineral claims which are both undeveloped and already severed—once a mineral claim is developed, the owner is listed in a separate “Production” category and recorded as the well operating company rather than the actual mineral owner (the operator then collects the taxes from the owner for the county).37
36 EPA Region 8 Energy Advisor, Personal Correspondence.
37 Weld County Assessor, Personal Correspondence.
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If we had a list of all mineral owners, we could use their addresses to approximate how many are split-estate situations, but no such list for Weld County exists (in fact, this means we do not even know the total number of mineral claims in Weld County!). As a result, we have no large-scale data on how many farmers own their mineral rights, making it nearly impossible to make general statements about the effects of royalty payments on farming businesses. The survey attempts to address this considerable knowledge gap by estimating mineral-ownership by farmers in Weld.
There is reason to believe that a substantial number mineral rights in Weld are owned by parties other than the farmer/surf ace owner. For one, we were able to loosely estimate split-estates by comparing the “Well Title” listed with the COGCC well location data to the name of the parcel owner in the Weld County parcel data. To do this, I created a simple Python/ArcPy script that joins the parcel name info to each well point and then automatically calls and compares the Well Title to the Parcel Name.38 Because Well Titles and Parcel owners are
38 The script is as follows:
import arcpy
arcpy.env.workspace = r'F:\flash_backup_Decl7\Thesis Proposal\GIS Data' arcpy.env.overwriteOutput = 1
arcpy.SpatialJoin_analysis('wells_selection.shp', 'parcels.shp', 'Join_Title.shp')
fields = ['Well_Name','NAME','shape0']
scur = arcpy.da.SearchCursor('Join_Title.shpfields)
arcpy.CreateFeatureclass_management(arcpy.env.workspace, 'Non_split.shp',"point")
arcpy.AddField_management('Non_split.shp','Well_Name','STRING')
arcpy.AddField_management('Non_split.shp','NAME','STRING')
fields2 = ['Well_Name','NAME','shape0']
icur = arcpy.da.InsertCursor('Non_split.shp',fields2)
for row in scur:
z = row[0].upper().split() for x in z:
if x in row[l]:
icur.insertRow([row[0],row[l],row[2]]) arcpy.Deleteldentical_management ('Non_split.shp','shape0')
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documented slightly differently even when the owner is the same (parcel names are often full names whereas the well title is only the last name), I had to process the fields first, making sure they are all in the same case and then ‘splitting’ them to compare substrings. This splitting created some duplicates because the substrings matched twice for what was really the same entry; these duplicates are removed at the end using the Delete Identical geoprocessing tool.
From this analysis, we found that about 53% of wells have a title that differs from the name of the surface owner, indicating widespread split-estates. However, this is only a proxy and cannot be considered completely accurate: we are only comparing names, but it is very possible that parcel names are listed as the business whereas the well title is listed by the person’s name.
In this scenario my script would count them as different even though they are indeed the same person (and thus not split-estates), perhaps then overestimating the total amount of split-estates. Unfortunately, there is no way around this using the data we have available.
Secondly, the list of severed/undeveloped mineral claims contains almost 1700 claims that are owned by people who do not reside in Weld County, much less in Colorado, and a sizable proportion of these rights are owned directly by Anadarko Land Corporation (a major oil and gas operator in the region). While this is only a very small sample of mineral claims, it does show that a significant amount of undeveloped split-estates do exist and may indicate the existence of many more which have already been developed. It also suggests that oil and gas companies themselves often purchase and accumulate mineral rights, severing them from the agricultural surface use.
It also appears that in some areas of the county the railroads continue to own a large majority of the mineral rights, as they were the original landowner and kept the minerals as
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assets after they sold the surface rights for cash (this situation is recounted by 5 non-mineral-owners). One farmer describes owning 320 acres of farmland, but “that is Union Pacific ground and we [only] get a surface-owners share,” and another tells how “we got lucky and had mineral rights, but every other section is a railroad section established in 1860 and Union Pacific owns those minerals.” This represents a fascinating historical legacy, as this company land is an artifact of massive federal land grants given to railroads during the later 19th century. Moreover, Weld County itself owns about 40,000 acres of mineral rights, but does not own all of the corresponding surface acres which are owned and sometimes farmed by private individuals. This illustrates that many mineral rights are retained by large historical entities.
Lastly, some survey respondents directly assert that split-estates are very common in their area, explaining that “many landowners who have mineral rights have moved away.” They of course recount how in their own experience, the “mineral rights were sold before I bought the farm,” or how “the first owner did not want to sell or transfer [the mineral rights] to me.” One respondent even concludes that “very few farmers own full mineral rights anymore,” as over time people retire and/or sell their land but retain their mineral claims.
However, other components of the survey reveal a more complicated reality. To begin with, in the survey only 27% of parcels (20 of 74 do not own minerals, and 54 do) are split estates (Question 5). While this is indeed a very small sample, it was unexpected that so many respondents would be dual owners who maintain their mineral rights. Although there is no way to verify if this percentage is at all representative of the entire county (or state/region, for that matter), it may indicate that split estates are less common than we thought and that the majority of surface owners do receive royalties. Yet only 32 of those 54 mineral-owners are actually
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engaged in farming themselves, the others being landlords who may not choose to invest in agriculture (see Farm leasing section below).
Certain nuances about the nature of mineral ownership also came through in the surveys which problematize our definitions of mineral vs. non-mineral-owners. For one, it appears relatively common for someone to own multiple parcels, some where they own minerals and others where they do not—in the survey, 16% of respondents both own and do not mineral rights on various parcels (or 12 out of 74, Question 5). As these farmers recount, “we own 15,000 acres between Berthoud and Perkins County Nebraska, and some properties we own minerals and others we don't,” and similarly, “the 3 parcels we now own all came with different mineral ownership situations.” These farmers tend to have unique insights into the experiences of both mineral and non-mineral owners, though they also tend to have a more positive bias towards energy development than those with no mineral rights whatsoever. In any case, such experiences exemplify that mineral owners are sometimes also non-mineral owners for other parcels, and that ownership situations are complicated and often unique to individual farmers.
These and other respondents quoted above also allude to the fact that mineral rights can be subdivided and partially owned, with various owners receiving their share of the royalty. Hence, although someone may be a mineral-owner, this does not necessarily mean that they own 100% of the claim. Some respondents explain that they only “own a very small percentage,” and although they are technically a royalty receiving mineral-owner they do not receive the full financial benefit as do other mineral-owners. Unfortunately, the survey does not ask the respondent to specify their proportion of ownership, so this dynamic is not well recorded by our data. This may be a major oversight and flaw in the research, as partial owners should not be
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treated the same as full owners. Nonetheless, this data shows that the stipulations of “mineral ownership” and royalty receipt can vary significantly, again making it difficult to connect mineral ownership to a specific estimate of cash flow to farms. If indeed few farmers are full mineral owners anymore, as the quotation above suggests, the amount of money that goes to even mineral-owning farmers may be less than previously thought.
Furthermore, some respondents who do not own mineral rights still receive direct payments as part of their surface use agreement (Question 36). We initially thought that nonmineral-owners did not receive any cash payments, as all royalty value from the minerals go to the owner. However, it seems that the details of surface use agreements can vary considerably, and that many do involve periodic or upfront cash payments in exchange for surface use, access points, and minor damages (concessions to surface owners also probably vary from company to company, as some companies are willing to pay out in order to keep the surface owners happy, while others may take advantage and maximize their own revenue instead). A full 2/3rds of nonmineral owning respondents say they also receive “guaranteed upfront financial compensation” (19 of 30 respondents). One respondent tells how “surface agreements money has been beneficial, the small monthly check is nice.” Others are sure to emphasize that just because they are not a mineral-owner does not necessarily mean they receive no cash from the operator (as the phrasing of Question 5 in the survey implies). Therefore, landowners who are technically nonmineral owners for some parcels may nonetheless receive direct financial benefits from energy development and in turn be able to reinvest oil and gas money in their farming operations.
Due to these more nuanced scenarios, it seems that strictly dividing between mineralowning farmers (who receive cash and can invest in their farm) and non-mineral-owning farmers
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(who do not receive cash and thus cannot invest in their farm) is not always an appropriate way to conceptualize subsurface tenure relations in Weld.
Farm leasing
Another complex tenure problem is farm leasing, or the renting out of farmland to an independent farmer by a non-farming landowner. As documented by the Census of Agriculture, this practice is very common in the US, and almost 40% of all agricultural parcels in Weld County are rented out. As such, in the survey we have 4 primary categories: farming owner-operators with mineral rights, non-farming landlords with mineral rights, farming owner-operators without mineral rights, and non-farming landlords without mineral rights. These distinctions are significant because the survey primarily targets farmers and explores their decision-making process, and non-farming landlords will usually not have the same experience and insights into the farming business on their land. Many of the surveys were taken by landowners who lease land rather than by farmers themselves, so these responses must be parsed out and treated separately as landlords may have very different perspectives on energy and agriculture than an actual farmer.
The survey identified 46 farming landowners (64%) and 28 non-farming landowners or lessors (36%), corroborating the idea that farm leasing is common in Weld. Of those 46 landowners who also farm, 32 are mineral owners and 14 are not; of landlords, 22 are mineral owners and only 6 are not (this implies that non-farming landlords may be slightly more likely to own minerals than farmers, but the sample size is far too small to even speculate). Put differently, 59% of mineral owners are farmers and 41% are landlords. Notably, some landowners do farm but also lease land to others to farm, suggesting that the landlord/landowner
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distinction may be misleading (similar to the mineral/non-mineral owner), though no more than 5 respondents reported this status.
In total, 43% of respondents are farming mineral-owners and thus may be in a position to invest royalty cash in agriculture (32 out of 74). For the other 57% which are either not mineral-owners or not farmers, the royalty cash from drilling on farmland is likely not being reinvested in that farmland. The fact that l/3rd of surveyed farmers (14/46) do not own their minerals also means that the royalty money from farmland is probably going elsewhere.
These results indicate that royalty cash may not always make it into the agricultural economy even though extraction is taking place on active farmland. The fact that a full 40% of mineral owners on agricultural parcels (22/54) are not themselves engaged in farming is discouraging, as it implies that this valuable royalty money is often not being reinvested in crop production at all, instead going directly into the landlords’ pocket. The farmer himself, who would make equipment decisions like precision tech or more efficient irrigation, doesn't actually see any of that royalty money and so couldn't make conservation investments even if they wanted to. Many royalties go to a non-producing landowner who may be less interested in production efficiencies or resource conservation. As one non-farming landlord explains when asked if they have invested in precision tech, “I leave that technology up to the people who rent my farm.” Another states that they would not invest in precision tech because “I lease out my farm.” These landlords do not feel responsible for enhancing production (nor for that matter do they wonder how the tenants are expected to generate the surplus to make such investments without supplemental income like royalties).
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To conclude, the surface and subsurface tenure situation in Weld County is complex and full of uncertainties. Though ownership dynamics are extremely important for estimating the financial effects of royalties on farming businesses, we were unable to definitively determine any trends in mineral ownership by farmers. Even so, these insights expose critical nuances and may provide an important foundation for future inquiries regarding royalties and the agricultural economy. Moreover, there is reason to believe that a substantial proportion of royalty revenue from farmland doesn’t make it into the hands of farm businesses—people who could use that money to enhance their production operation, conserve water and soil, and improve the financial sustainability of smaller farms.
Chronology
It should be noted that the majority of respondents described wells that were much older than we had anticipated. Most reported their wells first being drilled in the 1980’s, some as old as the early 70’s and other in the mid 90’s. Only a handful of respondents reported wells drilled in the last 10 years. Initially, we thought we were simply mistaken to believe that most wells in the area were relatively young, as there has been widespread oil extraction in this region for over 100 years. But given that drilling has in fact expanded dramatically in the last 10-15 years, predominantly due to fracking technology, these responses remain somewhat curious.
Upon further reflection, it is quite possible that many people were reporting the dates of their first wells, and not necessarily noting newer wells which have been established since. For one, it is very unlikely that wells drilled almost 40 years ago would still be producing large royalties, so the respondents who receive considerable royalties probably have younger wells in addition to their first wells. Moreover, many people specifically mention various impacts
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associated with drilling (some refer to active drilling itself), and therefore probably have wells that were drilled in recent memory. Finally, the phrasing of the survey question was ambiguous and probably led respondents to report the date of initial drilling only (“When were the oil/natural gas wells on your land first drilled?” (emphasis added)). In hindsight, it would have been useful to ask each respondent how many wells they have, what types, and the drilling dates of each in order to better understand the temporal sequencing of energy development on these farms.
Even still, a majority of people report first beginning to receive royalties over 25 years ago. We mistakenly assumed most landowners have only recently been engaged with energy development—on the contrary, many of these farmers have been receiving royalties for decades. This modifies the nature of the inquiry a bit, because we initially conceptualized royalty reinvestment in Weld as more of a contemporary problem directly tied to the fracking boom. While it may still be largely contemporary (due to the addition of tens of thousands of new unconventional wells), many landowners have had experience with the financial and environmental effects of energy extraction for much longer. In this sense, the relationship between energy royalties and farming livelihoods has deeper historical roots than we thought.
Royalties and Farm Finances
The survey’s primary inquiry revolves around the net financial effects of energy
royalties on farm businesses, speculating that royalty cash may increase the financial sustainability and potential capital investments of mid-sized farms. This section describes
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insights concerning increased revenue, decreased financial vulnerability, diversified investment choices, and the use of cash vs. debt. It also recounts respondents’ experiences with fluctuating commodity prices, for both agricultural and energy commodities.
It is important to note that contracts between mineral owners and well operators are all individually negotiated, and one cannot generalize the terms or the exact royalty rate. These agreements also depend on geologic factors like the volume, quality, and depth of the reservoir. In addition, certain mineral claims are simply more productive, so it is difficult to estimate the average value of actual royalties in Weld. In this sense, it is important to recognize that some of the variation in farmer experience is a product of these variations in mineral resources and operator contracts/royalty rates. Such diversity makes it difficult to generally assess the financial implications of royalty payments.
Financial vulnerability
An essential motivation of this research was to examine the ability of royalties to keep farms in business. Given the potential financial volatility of many farmers’ livelihoods due to commodity prices and crop damage, and decreasing returns due to chronically low prices, is it possible that royalties help a significant number of farms stay afloat? This is of course a common claim, but little empirical evidence has been presented. In this case, a majority of respondents returned a resounding “Yes” (Questions 7, 8, and 23). 25 of 32 farming mineral-owners say that royalties do protect them from low commodity prices. Many mineral-owning farmers emphatically described the dramatic effects of royalty cash on their business, with some even explicitly claiming that royalties are the only reason they didn’t have to sell their farm. They also
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noted that investments in new equipment significantly increased productivity and profitability (which is elaborated upon in the Farm Investments section below).
This positive financial influence is more vividly illustrated through the write-in anecdotes. One respondent says that their royalty money has “all been used to keep the farm afloat,” and another stating that the extra cash “helped keep us afloat,” adding that “the property damage and royalty checks have helped with our operating expenses.” Some frankly state that “without it, we would probably be out of business,” while another respondent goes so far as to suggest that royalties have “allowed us to keep farming the land even if it isn’t making any money.” Many respondents emphasize that royalties “reduce financial risk,” “help balance the income in lean years,” “diversify and invest to protect farm interests,” and “help to offset low commodity prices.” One farmer describes how royalties have “supplemented low prices and allowed improvements that would not have been possible without that supplemental income,” and another claims that “revenue from oil and gas is currently better than farm income.” This farmer portrays royalties as a form of crop insurance: “In years of crop failures, the money from oil and gas helps owners to not lose the farm.” All of this suggests that these farmers very much depend on royalties for their financial health, especially in times of declining farm income.
A few farmers had more unique perspectives on the role of royalties. This farmer views royalties as a sort of ideological anti-government tool, using royalties in place of federal crop insurance and subsidies: “The income from oil and gas has enabled me to keep operating the farm without signing up for any government programs. I refuse to sign up for government support!” Another instead emphasizes the effects of royalties on their quality of life, noting how the extra cash reduces the pressure and stress of the farming profession: “The extra income has
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made farming enjoyable again. Everything is easier now.” This farmer similarly tells how the supplementary income “allowed some personal time that was not available before.” Regardless of their personal take, a significant number of farmers surveyed claim that royalties absolutely help keep them in business and protect them from low commodity prices.
The seven mineral-owning farmers who responded that royalties have not affected their business tell a very different story. It is probable that these farmers have fewer/less productive wells and simply do not receive as much royalty cash. It is also possible that their farms are structured differently, in the sense that their businesses are too large (or in a more nuanced scenario, too small) to be dramatically affected by the relatively modest cash payments. Moreover, some of these farmers probably do not farm as the primary occupation, operating a small hobby farm but relying on other sources for the majority of their income. As this farmer describes, “My brother and I inherited the 80 acre farm in 2010. We farm it together as a sideline. I’m retired and he has a full-time job. We each receive any royalties 50/50. My father died in 2010, but I’m sure they helped him. Since my brother and I have raised corn on the small farm, and the royalties are just extra income for us.”
Still, these minority farmers’ experiences offer a meaningful counterpoint to the idea that energy development absolutely benefits all farmers, as even these mineral-owning farmers say that royalties have not really affected their business and do not protect them from low commodity prices. The primary reason these farmers say that royalties have not helped them financially is that the royalty checks are unpredictable, stating that “some years royalties were really great, other years they had very little effect. This is due more to oil and gas prices than to commodity farm prices.” When asked if royalties have significantly affected their business, one
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farmer responds that “it’s hard to say...You can’t rely on them.” This dynamic is explored at length in the following section.
In conclusion, because of the financial vulnerability that many small-medium sized farms must navigate, their options are seriously constrained when oil or gas reserves are discovered beneath their land. If most farmers depend on income outside of their farming operation in order to survive, royalties have likely become an indispensable portion of many farm budgets in Weld. Given the circumstances of low/unpredictable prices and diminishing returns on harvested crops, it is almost impossible for these farmers to forgo the financial benefits of energy extraction even if they have concerns about spills and other impacts to their farmland. In this sense, the broader context of farm finances is instrumental to understanding why farmers choose to participate in energy development in spite of the risks.
Commodity prices and fluctuating royalty payments
In addition to asking if royalties have protected farmers from low commodity prices, we also asked all respondents about their experience with the state of agricultural commodity prices in general (Question 4). A substantial 74% of respondents said that prices have been unreliable over the last 5 years, with 33.8% describing prices as “Low” and another 41.5% saying they are “Always changing/fluctuating ” Interestingly, not all of these farmers participate in the same commodity markets, suggesting that there have been poor prices for a variety of different commodities, including corn, alfalfa, and wheat, as well as perhaps less common crops like sugar beets. This confirms that low prices and volatile commodity markets are indeed a problem for
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Weld County farmers, and reiterates the quotations in the previous section which highlight the importance of royalties in times of market decline.
However, as the more skeptical farmers quoted above have noted, it is important to acknowledge the equal instability of the natural gas market and thus of the fluctuations in the value of the royalties which farmers receive. Royalties are ultimately a percentage of the value produced by the well, so when energy prices drop, so do royalty payments. Because energy markets tend to function in “boom and bust” cycles, we cannot expect royalty payments to be consistent or predictable. The new unconventional gas market has already proven to be quite volatile, and prices for natural gas have plummeted in the last 3-4 years due to massive overproduction and international competition (in this sense, low prices are just as much a problem for energy markets as agricultural markets). Mineral-owners unanimously responded that the amount of money they receive in royalties fluctuates, with 53% stating that payments fluctuate “Very Often,” 40% answering “Occasionally,” and only 7% or 3 respondents answering “Not Very Often” (Question 10). This suggests that royalties may not be a reliable form of supplemental income.
Moreover, as wells age, production steadily begins to decline and thus royalty payments decline as well—in many cases, after only 5 years the well is producing a mere fraction of the initial annual payments of up to $200,000. Although the initial productivity and the rate of decline will vary significantly depending on the type of well and the quality of the reserve, one can usually expect production to decline dramatically over the first 5-10 years. Because the first year of production often creates staggeringly large monthly payments (sometimes tens of thousands of dollars), some mineral-owners may overestimate the value of their minerals. One
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farmer describes how in his experience, people receive “big checks upfront, then they decline quickly.” Hence, royalties are probably not a long-term solution to financial instability for farming households.
For these reasons, farmers receiving royalties may simply trade one form of vulnerability for another. Because the cash flow from royalties can fluctuate dramatically with the energy market, it may leave farmers who depend on royalties equally vulnerable as before. In this sense, the socio-economic benefits of royalties could be somewhat of a false promise, but further research is of course necessary to elaborate upon this possibility.
Cash and debt
Initially, we wondered if the large additional cash flow might encourage larger and riskier investments, in particular debt funded purchases or business endeavors. If farming households pursue major investments using of their royalty cash, especially purchases made on credit such as heavy equipment, new structures, or college education, what happens when prices drop or production declines? It is possible that farmers could find themselves in financial trouble if the cash flow they use to pay their bills varies or declines as the energy market changes; this could lead to possible default, the accrual of large debts and interest payments, and increased financial instability. This certainly happens to mineral-owners in Weld—as one surveyed farmer tells it, “I have seen way too many people buy based on the first check, then have to sell it later.”
As it turns out, a lot of Weld County farmers are more risk/debt averse, and likely understood that their royalty payments would be inconsistent. Interestingly, it appears that the strong majority of surveyed farmers chose to make additional purchases only with cash from
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directly from royalty checks rather than purchasing equipment on credit and increasing their debt burden. 60% of farmers report that they made large purchases using cash alone, and 28% report using both cash and some credit (Question 12). Further, respondents who claim to have sent their children through college using royalty payments implied that their tuition was entirely paid for out of pocket with no long-term debt accrual.
Therefore, we should not assume that farmers will use royalty payments to make immediate large purchases and increase their debts, as many farmers appear to prefer using cash savings to make large purchases outright. In fact, most farmers surveyed conversely use their royalties to pay off existing debts. Farmers could also use royalties to avoid further debt accrual—because the need for upfront cash is an unavoidable seasonal reality (to pay initial overhead costs for seeds, fuel, fertilizer, and other inputs), royalties may actually decrease farmers’ dependence on annual lines of credit from banks and the government.
Farm investments
Which leads us to our central question: given this additional cash flow, what sorts of investments did farmers choose to make? While there was substantial diversity in reported investment choices, there were also some distinct patterns (Question 11). Altogether, respondents communicate that royalties most definitely increase their capacity for farm investments, including equipment, structures, irrigation, savings, and debt repayment (although the ability to invest of course depends how many wells you have/how much money you receive, amounts which can vary considerably). One respondent goes so far as to suggest that the positive financial impact of royalties is evidently visible on the agricultural landscape: when asked if energy development is good for farming communities in Colorado, he responds that “all one need do is
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drive east out of Weld County to see the [improved] condition of farm equipment and structures.”
To begin, in some of the preceding paragraphs as well as in the tables presented in the Graphs and Tables section, we have strategically differentiated the responses according to whether the respondent is themselves a farmer or merely leases their land to another who cultivates it. The rationale presented in the ‘Farm Leasing’ subsection above assumes that nonfarming landlords will not invest in production, and hence these individuals need to be considered separately. However, Table 3 illustrates how many landlords nonetheless do invest in farm infrastructure, with 8 out of 21 reporting that they spent royalty cash on farm equipment and structures, and 4 purchasing irrigation equipment. It is possible that the landlord still has financial stake in the productivity of the land, perhaps for tax category purposes or because the value of the land is bolstered by fertility/farmability, as more efficient production creates higher revenue and increases the value of the lease.
But more directly, write-ins revealed that some lessors are also actively farming, but they rent out portions of their land to others as well. Moreover, some of these “landlords” are actually elderly, retired farmers who can longer farm and are leasing their own farm to another business. These people probably still have some financial interests in production, but more importantly they might maintain a cultural and ethical commitment to their farm’s continued health, as well as values which leave them invested in agricultural livelihoods more generally. This is of course speculation, but we can nonetheless reasonably assume that the decision-making behavior of a former-operator landlord will be quite different from a landlord who has never farmed at all, much less farmed this particular plot for decades. It is likely these former operators who decided
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to invest their royalty cash in equipment and infrastructure which their lessee can use to enhance production and resource management, even though they no longer farm themselves.
Regardless of the reasoning (and scenarios are undoubtedly diverse), this data suggests that one should never assume a landlord will not use royalty cash to invest in farm equipment, and that the division between owner-operators and owner-non-operators can be fuzzy. Accordingly, in this section we have included the total responses including lessors, as well as the responses of active farmers (owner-operators) only. Table 3 is also useful reference for this dynamic.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two most popular selections were Farm Equipment (28/52 (total)—21/31 (farmers only)) and Farm Structures (27/52—19/31). Affirming the cliche, it seems a lot of mineral-owning farmers went ahead and bought themselves a shiny new tractor. This is an obvious priority, as new equipment can dramatically reduce their own time/labor and increase efficiency and output on the farm. Many farmers were likely working with outdated equipment but struggled to accrue the surplus cash necessary for a major equipment purchase. Similarly, structures can be a major investment and require large surplus cash. Structures create new space for storage and miscellaneous work and can enhance the labor process; they also degrade and can become a problem for the business if not properly maintained. This category also includes farmers’ construction new homes for themselves. Royalties provide the surplus cash necessary to enhance efficiency through such investments, especially when prices are low or crops are lost and surplus is impossible. One farmer explains that royalties had a “significant impact,” because they “allowed equipment purchases and improvements,” and another similarly states that “we have been able to do many improvements to the farm, improving and adding farm
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structures.” Yet another explains that royalties allow them to “keep better equipment, which helps the entire business.”
Another common selection was Debt Repayment (27/52—18/31). Farmers are often indebted due to the need for seasonal credit and the difficulty of generating surplus cash, as there is only one or two annual harvests that must provide cash income for the entire year. Hence, paying debts is a primary expenditure when surplus cash does become available (although 13/31 farmers did not repay debt with royalty cash, perhaps implying that they had no mortgage and fewer debts). Respondents report that royalties “definitely improved our cash flows for debt repayment,” and “helped pay off the debt and enhance farming,.” It appears that many of these farmers had mortgages on their land as opposed to having inherited it outright, and thus paying off the mortgage was a major priority. Other respondents relay how royalties “helped pay off the farm,”, and again, “of course with more money we paid our mortgages.” This is important because even if royalties amounts decrease in the future, farming businesses will still have extra cash because they now own their farm outright. A decreased debt burden may increase the financial sustainability and investment capacity of farms moving forward, potentially enhancing interest in new arenas such as resource conservation.
The next most frequent selection was investments in improved irrigation infrastructure (23/52—19/31). A considerable amount of farmers discuss having used royalty money to switch from flood to center pivot irrigation (this likely took place 20 or 30 years ago at this point), a technology which seriously decreases total water requirements and improves water delivery. When some of these wells were first drilled in the 1970’s and early 80’s, many farmers in Northern Colorado still relied on inefficient flood irrigation infrastructure, or conversely did not
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irrigate at all, so it appears that royalties may have played an essential role in this important technological shift which enhanced productivity.
Echoing others, this farmer explains that they initially used royalties to “make land payments and buy center pivots.” Interestingly, some respondents specifically emphasize investing in new irrigation equipment and practices which reduce water needs, indicating financial and environment interest in water conservation. One farmer states that royalties “allowed purchase of sprinkling system to use less water for irrigation and other land improvements,” while another has tried to “develop more efficient irrigation practices requiring less water,” both implying that royalties may help enhance water savings in Colorado farms. Another farmer specifically connects irrigation development and efficiency to royalty payments, explaining how royalties allowed them to move from “flood irrigation to pivot irrigation, to our current subsurface drip system.”
Surprisingly few respondents report using royalty cash for savings (22/52—15/31), perhaps because they already have some type of pension or retirement fund. Still, increased capacity to save money is a considerable benefit of royalty payments, and about half of farming mineral-owners utilize them for this purpose. Especially if one is concerned about the financial vulnerability of these farms, cash savings can help buffer businesses during difficult markets. Leisure is an interesting catch-all category for various types of personal expenses, though relatively few respondents selected it or emphasized these purchases in the write-ins (17/52— 13/31). Still, it may be another indicator of quality of life improvements gained through surplus income.
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Others used their royalty payments to purchase additional land and expand their production operation. While this expenditure was shortsightedly not included in the survey options, it was mentioned by 9 respondents in their write-ins and is likely an important use of royalty cash. “We have been able to expand and grow because of royalties,” says one respondent, with another recounting how the money “eventually enabled my Dad to buy more land.” One farmer even reports using royalties to purchase the equipment to originally establish their farm: “We purchased the farm in 1988. A neighbor sharecropped and used pasture. In 1991-92 we were able to purchase used equipment and take over the farm.” Royalty funded equipment purchases may also have “dramatically reduced labor and allowed for purchases of additional land” for many farmers. Expanding the scale of production can increase efficiency and revenue on the farm, improving farmers’ livelihoods. It is also possible that these additional land purchases have contributed to the consolidation trend noted by Census of Agriculture, though there are too many other factors to assume this.
There were also some unique expenditures in the “Other” category. Some use their royalties specifically to pay their property taxes or utilities. Another paid for repairs of property and infrastructure damages from the 2013 floods using royalty funds. Others describe how they were allowed to tie into the feeder lines and use local gas for heating their home and other farm energy needs, “providing cheap gas for our irrigation wells/pumps.” These more subtle and idiosyncratic benefits further illuminates the diversity of royalty expenditure.
A significant number of farmers make enough in royalties that they report spending royalty cash on many or all of the possible options. It would be useful to know the relative amounts they spent on each category to narrow down their priorities, but the survey was not
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designed for this level of detail. Still, these anecdotes, illuminate how farmers can deploy
royalties for diverse and creative purposes, making it difficult to determine specific economic
effects. This respondent tells how the extra cash “enabled me to pay off farm debt and put up a
new shed, as well as pay taxes, irrigation expenses, machinery expenses, and gas/diesel.” In one
compelling story, a farmer describes how:
“Money was used to place pivot irrigation on land which became more productive. Eventually enabled Dad to buy more land. It has paid for upgrades of equipment over the years. By reducing labor it enabled Mom and Dad to stay on the farm and be active, maybe extending their lives. It built their new house, it built my new house, improved my equipment, and allowed me to experiment with hemp.”
Altogether this information paints a preliminary picture of the effects of royalty cash on farm investments, demonstrating how royalties can enhance farmers’ ability to invest in new equipment, structures, and irrigation technology, as well as pay of their farm mortgages and equipment, avoid/pay seasonal debts, and accumulate savings. In this sense, oil and gas development may considerably improve the productivity of farmland and generally enhance farmers’ livelihoods.
Royalties and College Tuition
College tuition was a less common but still meaningful expenditure (12/52—9/31). 19 of 52 respondents have a child in college or will soon go to college. A few farmers emphasize that royalties helped them support their children in school, using the funds to “pay bills and college for several children.” Another says that their energy royalties singlehandedly “put three children through college or grad school.” While this is not an investment in farming, it is nonetheless a meaningful investment in the opportunities and well-being of farmers’ families.
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Initially, we speculated that royalties used for tuition may help train the next generation of farmers, as their children receive educations in relevant fields like agricultural economics, business, agronomy, or environmental sciences. However, only 5 of the respondents have a child studying economics or business, and none have a child studying agronomy or an environmental science (the children’s majors were diverse and usually completely irrelevant to farming). Moreover, only 2 people who spent royalty money on tuition also have children who intend to farm their land as an adult (5 people who used royalties for tuition have children who ‘might’ farm when they’re older). 5 of the farmers’ children who are in college intend to farm, and 7 maybe intend to farm. Therefore, our hypothesis is not supported by survey data, as royalty money does not frequently go to the education of future farmers (though it does happen).
Still, altogether a considerable proportion of farmers had children who intend or maybe intend to farm their land (Question 21). Of 28 farmers’ children, 10 intend to farm and 10 will maybe farm, implying that many of these farms will remain in the family. Interestingly, 5 landlord’s children also intend to farm (likely former owner-operators again).
Precision Technology and Resource Conservation
As outlined in the Relevance/Justification section, this research was also designed to explore the possibility of farmers using royalties to invest in novel resource conservation technology, in particular digital applications such as remote sensing, moisture sensors, and GPS. Such technology can save substantial money and resources by minimizing waster and maximizing efficiency, but it requires large upfront capital investments which some farmers are unable or unwilling to make. Is it possible that cash surplus from royalties allows interested farmers to make the transition to ‘high-tech’ equipment and land management techniques?
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Results are definitely mixed, but there is evidence that yes, royalties may help certain farmers invest in resource conservation technology.
Of 32 farmers, 29 are familiar with precision tech., and only 3 of them report that they don’t know anyone who uses it (Question 14). Only the remaining 3 say they are not familiar. Obviously the use of such technology is already widespread in Weld, and the majority of farmers have been exposed to it—in fact, one respondent found it offensive that I would even ask, claiming that the question assumes most farmers are ignorant and backwards. All this implies that there is definitely knowledge of and interest in resource conservation technology in Weld County, and that royalties may help fund these transitions.
16 of 32 farming respondents have purchased or used high-tech applications, with many implying that they continue to use this technology (Question 13). Some specifically refer to GPS-guided tractors, drones, or moisture sensors, though most do not specify what particular technology they use. In hindsight this would have been very useful information, as not all of these technologies have the same purpose or implications. It is difficult to speculate on the meaning of these investments without knowing the specific equipment utilized. Nonetheless, these technologies are all designed to increase efficiency and reduce waste, ultimately improving the finances of the farm. In addition, many of them minimize water, fertilizer, and pesticides, which reduces pollution and conserves natural resources. Farmers describe how technology can “reduce waste of water, seed, fertilizers, etc, which could reduce expenses and enhance yield,”, and “better assess crop quality/readiness for harvest.” One farmer employs technology because it provides “better tools which decrease manual labor, and keeps farming current with other industries.”
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However, only 2 farmers who have not already used some sort of precision tech, say they are interested in trying it, so most have already made up their mind and purchased it, or otherwise never intend to (Question 15). Still, one respondent describes how “We haven’t had the time yet to spend on [learning how to use it] but were considering it.” Notably, 5 lessors report having purchased or used precision tech, suggesting that they are former farmers or are otherwise interested in resource conservation technology (refer to the beginning of the Farm Investments section for context). One non-farming landlord notes that their “tenants use precision tech constantly,” while another states that “I leave that technology up to the people who rent my farm.”
The role of royalties in this investment remains unclear (Question 17). The 16 respondents who do use precision tech also report that royalties have made these investments more affordable for them, and explain that they required this extra cash to make major high-tech purchases. However, the remaining 16 farmers who do not use precision tech are less certain, with 12 saying royalties ‘Maybe’ make precision tech more affordable, and 4 others selecting ‘No,’ they do not. Yet for the 16 farmers who receive royalties and chose to invest in precision tech, oil and gas royalties may indeed have become a vector of sustainable farming.
A total of 10 out of 32 farming mineral-owners said that they have never used precision tech and have no interest in doing so. According to these and other respondents, the scale of an operation is the primary factor in the decision to use precision technology. A great deal of respondents note that their farm is too small to require precision tech, suggesting that small farms either cannot afford this technology or simply don’t require it for their scale of production (often both). It is unclear how big a farm must be until this tech becomes more useful, but one farmer
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says that they don’t need it because their “farm is only 240 acres.” Given that the median farm size in Weld is only 80 acres, it appears most operations are simply too small to utilize digital apps or to pay back the costs. Others say that high-tech apps are simply too expensive for them, even with royalty payments, claiming that “Our farm cash flow is too small to invest in these high cost technologies.” One farmer states that hired labor is simply too affordable to justify the expense of technology: “At 66 it would be more because of curiosity than need. I have found it cheaper to hire planting and harvesting work than to maintain equipment or a hired man.”
In addition, a lot of farms in Weld County are dryland operations, which irrigate infrequently and generally involve less intensive management and lower inputs, making precision tech, less necessary—as one farmer notes, “Hay/pasture/livestock grazing do not see as many benefits as does crop production.” Another argues that precision tech is simply unnecessary in general: “I do not need GPS to plant straight rows. I know which spots on the farm are weak and work to improve them. Plus, I do not want someone else owning my data!” Obviously then, part of the reason farmers in Weld might not invest in this technology is because they neither need nor want to, not simply because they can’t afford it.
Ultimately, this portion of the inquiry is inconclusive. While some farmers did invest in precision tech using their royalties, many others either couldn’t afford it, didn’t require it, or were otherwise not interested. Such a relationship appears context dependent and driven by a variety of factors unique to each farm, like agronomic/economic scale, crop type, and farmer preferences. Still, there is evidence that royalty payments may contribute to investments in resource conservation tech in cases where farmers are able and wish to deploy it, including
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moisture sensors, drones, and updated irrigation tech (see Farm Investments section). This makes for a complex and counter-intuitive relationship between energy and agriculture in Weld County.
Environmental Impacts and Farming Practices
Energy extraction involves the possibility of significant environmental damage such as water and soil pollution, whether due to drilling accidents, leaky well casings, or breaks in feeder lines. Natural gas also entails risks to safety and public health due to the possibility of explosions and methane/ozone accumulation from the flares. Hence, extraction which takes place on farmland may have certain impacts on agricultural resources and farming operations. This section investigates farmers’ experiences with the environmental effects of energy extraction on farmland. Specifically, it explores farmers’ sense of spill risks associated with energy extraction, as well as how they must modify their farming practices due to the presence of well pads and tank batteries.
Although this project focuses primarily on farm investments from energy royalties, it remains vitally important to understand farmers’ perspectives on environmental impacts.
Because such risks are a central component of opportunity cost surrounding energy development, they become critical to the broader farm decision-making process. Energy development inevitably has both benefits and costs for producers. Studying how different farmers conceptualize the complex sets of risk and opportunity that accompany energy royalties is necessary for understanding why farmers and other agricultural landowners decide to participate in energy development to begin with. Conversely, it also helps us appreciate the experiences of
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non-mineral owners who were never given a choice.39 Obviously many landowners believe that the benefits of extraction exceed the real and potential impacts, and this data can shed light on their rationale. Through such an inquiry, we ultimately hope to enhance understanding of how and why energy development takes place on farmland.
Contamination risk
It appears that a majority of respondents do not view energy extraction as posing any fundamental threat to the health of their land or business, and are relatively unconcerned by the possibility of spills (Questions 27, 28, 41, and 43). Altogether, only 12 of 73 respondents (16%) believe that the wells on their land pose any risk to their resources or farming business, while another 10 selected ‘Maybe’ and 4 were unsure. As a percentage, non-mineral owners are more likely to believe that oil and gas wells pose a risk to their land. It may be intuitive that nonmineral owners would be more attuned to the negative implications of energy development, but this sample size is much too small to determine any meaningful pattern.40
Respondents who do not believe the wells pose a risk to their land were less likely to elaborate in the write-in section, so we have less specific information about their rationale. Those who did elaborate seemed to think risks were minimal and that spills are unlikely. One
39 Here we will consider both mineral-owners and non-mineral-owners simultaneously, as both of these groups have equally relevant experiences regarding impacts on farmland. For information which is specific to non-mineral owners, such as their surface use agreement and the nature of their relationship to mineral-owners and well operators, see the section entitle Experiences of Non-mineral Owners. Still, where relevant I will explore differences of opinion between mineral owners and non-owners. In some places, non-farming landlords’ opinions are strategically excluded from this part of the analysis.
40 41 out of 53 mineral owners (77%) responded No, hydraulic fracturing is not a significant contamination risk in their opinion, while 7 say maybe and only 5 say yes; of non-mineral owners 14 say no, 7 say yes, and 3 say maybe. When asked if they believe the wells on their land pose any risk to their business, the responses are identical, with 77% of mineral owners selecting No and only 8 of 27 nonmineral owners selecting Yes.
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respondent claims that there is “risk only if well heads blow off.” Some farmers deemphasize the impact of spills, and see the wells as merely inconvenient rather than any threat, stating things like “I don’t see a risk, [but it is] hard to farm around wells tracks and roads,” or “Maybe some minor damage, short-term. Pipes can leak.” The second farmer adds that it “depends on management by oil companies and age/maintenance of resources,” asserting that spills are not a fundamental risk of extraction but a product of poor management and degradation of aging infrastructure. One farmer also clarifies that they are not concerned about groundwater contamination because “there are no water wells in the area,” reminding us that local geologic/hydrologic context is essential to assessing spill risks.
Respondents who were concerned about contamination mentioned things like “water table pollution” which could “cause crop death,” and that “leaks contaminate soil and threaten to pollute groundwater.” Some say that wells could pose a risk “if massive spills or leaks were to occur.” One farmer states that “any spill would be devastating. If they frack the well, they will destroy our crop.” A more opinionated respondent says that wells pose a risk to their land because of “poison,” adding that “if I owned the mineral rights, I wouldn’t let them frack here” (for the record, this person is not a farmer). In any case, it is clear that certain farmers and landowners are indeed aware of and concerned by the potential of contamination. Only a single respondent reports experiencing a water contamination event directly, but it still provides evidence that such events do take place in Weld:
“Recently, several water wells in our section have been made unusable due to gas that has been sourced by COGIS to specific fracturing operations. Three, deep water wells owned by our small water system supply about 125 homes and farms. Losing those wells due to fracturing mishaps would be disastrous.”
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Many farmers seem to focus on leaks from the feeder lines rather than the wellheads
themselves. Although they say nothing about fracking or drilling, they are very aware of transfer
lines beneath and bordering their fields which bring natural gas from the wells to collection
tanks: “If a line above ground ruptures or a pressure relief valve offs gas, it could spray onto my
crops,” or “If there were to be a rupture there could possibly be contamination of water, soil, or
crop.” Another farmer similarly asserts that “I am not worried about underground activities, but
surface spills, releases of gas probably create risk for nearby houses/property.” One non-mineral
owning farmer articulately describes the nature of contamination risk on their farm, perhaps
speaking for these other farmers’ experiences as well—when asked if they view hydraulic
fracturing as a threat to their natural resources, they respond that:
“Fracking is not the issue. In general, people have no clue what’s really going on. The real safety risk is the production side of things, like oil lines leaking into soil and groundwater, high pressure lines getting hit, the amount of semi-traffic are public safety issues, not fracking! Risk of spills, leaks, traffic, personal injury because of oil and gas production all add risk to my business. There are up to 11 oil wells per quarter section with high pressure gas plus the tank batteries that we have to drive our equipment around all the time. It’s very dangerous.”
These respondents’ emphasis on feeder lines (and vehicle traffic) rather than drilling or wellheads illuminates the importance of secondary infrastructure in creating the negative environmental impacts of energy development. The spectacular portrayals of massive spill events and drinking water contamination during the drilling process may not be representative of most impacts, and such risks may ultimately be less significant than the many smaller contamination events and safety risks which come to permeate everyday life on the farm. Accordingly, research on the effects of oil and gas on farmland should give more attention to secondary infrastructure rather than the fracking process alone.
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Yet on the whole, a considerable minority of respondents seem to view energy development as a serious contamination risk. While there is some talk of leaking gas pipes, the idea that energy extraction may systematically endanger agricultural resources is not represented by any farmers in the survey. It appears that contamination risks do not factor directly into the decision-making process of most farmers; while many acknowledge that it is possible, they tend to view risks as minimal and the purview of the well operator (whom many seem to trust). The catastrophic portrayal of fracking in mainstream environmentalism is entirely absent from their descriptions and anecdotes.
What does it mean that so many food producers who live and work around these wells do not see them as a fundamental threat to our farmland or food system? Are they simply mistaken, or do their experiences problematize the polarizing rhetoric around unconventional gas? While contamination risks are indeed very real, many actual farmers in Weld have experienced no problems with their wells—alternatively, most explain how energy development provides them with essential supplemental income which keeps their farm in business and allows them to invest in new technology. Perhaps then we must reassess our impressions of the relationship between energy extraction and farming in Colorado.
Information sources on contamination risk
One possible explanation for the lack of concern about soil and water pollution is the sources where farmers tend to get information about extraction technology. The survey is very much inconclusive in this regard, but it does indicate some trends that may be meaningful (Question 34/). When asked where they “tend to get information on energy extraction or hydraulic fracturing, such as safety and environmental regulations?” 50 out of 73 select “Energy
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Company Partners.” This implies that a majority of landowners trust the oil and gas companies at least to some degree, and do view them as a reliable resource for scientific information on safety and contamination risks. Notably, non-mineral owners appear less likely to receive information from the oil and gas company, with only 9 of 20 respondents (as compared to 41 of 53 mineral-owners). This indicates that non-mineral owners may have less trust in industry narratives than mineral owners.
The other common selection is of course the news media (48 of 73), though most respondents opted not to specify their sources which makes it a fairly meaningless metric. Some do mention mainstream media outlets, in particular the Denver Post (which covers the oil and gas controversy in some detail, including regulatory policy, spill risks, explosion deaths, air quality problems, and effects on farmers’ livelihoods). Others mention “personal research” and “Google,” independently searching for diverse sources rather than relying on one outlet. But without knowing specific websites, it is impossible to know what sorts of information or organizations these landowners find during their research.
31 of 73 say they also receive information from local friends and acquaintances, using personal/experiential networks to seek out knowledge on regulations, risks, and impacts. A handful of others (7) mention that they or their friends/family have personally worked or continue to work in the oil and gas industry, sometimes as engineers who actually design fracking methods. Respondents almost undoubtedly trust the first-hand accounts of their friends/family more than random news sources, and such personal associations probably contribute to their trust of the oil and gas companies in general. This information illustrates how
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personal trust networks are also an important element of information exchange and knowledge construction around energy development in farming communities.
As we know, the oil and gas industry tends to have a different perspective on spill risk and general environmental impacts than do other researchers (formerly including the EPA, who had formally acknowledged many instances of groundwater contamination from unconventional gas operations). Company-sponsored organizations like COGA vehemently deny that oil and gas operations cause significant pollution of any type on the Front Range. Hence, the fact that so many farmers get information primarily from the oil and gas companies may give them a particular perspective (indeed, a deeply problematic one). In other words, it is possible that a majority of respondents do not see any contamination risks because that is what they were told by the well operator, who’s official position is almost always that there is minimal or no risk. Moreover, these responses imply that many respondents have not necessarily been exposed to primary scientific research on the negative impacts.
However, we believe this conclusion would require some irresponsible assumptions. For one, it is deeply condescending to assume that landowners would simply take industry’s word on complex and significant issues like contamination risk. In all likelihood these survey respondents are capable and educated people, and are not so naive as to blindly trust organizations who obviously have self-interested motivations. Even without knowing specific sources, the use of Google illuminates the independent and idiosyncratic knowledge seeking process that also takes place—landowners don’t simply absorb and regurgitate the rhetoric of specific organizations, but creatively assemble their own knowledges from diverse sources.
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Further, people generate knowledge through personal experience as well, not merely competing scientific reports. Most of these respondents have lived and worked around oil and gas operations for longer than I have even been alive, and so their perspectives and the personal experiences which shape them should be taken seriously. Therefore, while there is some evidence that landowners may not always be exposed to certain types of critical information on environmental impacts, we cannot produce any meaningful conclusions regarding the nature of knowledge construction in these areas.
Other farm impacts and modifying farming practices
There are a variety of possible impacts of energy extraction other than spills and contamination, including soil compaction, decreased air quality due to dust and emissions, loss of productivity, and decreased land values. In addition, the presence of wellheads and tanks batteries requires farmers to modify their farming practices and creates significant hazards.
When asked if oil and gas has negatively impacted their land or business, a total of 51 respondents (70%) say No, while 21 respondents (30%) say Yes. The No responses appear to be partially inflated by non-farming landlords who wouldn’t necessarily be aware of specific impacts to the farmland. Of 51 farming respondents, 21 (41%) report negative impacts. There are also significant differences between mineral owning farmers and non-mineral owning farmers (as well as mineral/non-mineral owners in general). An entire 12 out of 19 non-mineral owning farmers (63%) describe negative impacts, as opposed to only 28% of mineral owning farmers. Similarly, only 26% of mineral-owners report negative impacts, as opposed to 53% of nonmineral owners. Perhaps predictably, people who do not own minerals and receive less financial benefit are more likely to focus on the negative impacts of development on their land. (Table...).
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The most frequently cited impact in the survey is loss of farmable acreage or land productivity due to oil and gas infrastructure. Farmers explain how they now have “less farmable land” due to the space required for wellheads, feeder lines, tank batteries, equipment storage (during drilling), and maintenance access points. This lost acreage can add up and ultimately reduce farm output/revenue—one farmer notes that although royalties have “increased our revenue,” part of this extra revenue only compensates for the “loss of land due to the development.” Hence while royalties infuse extra cash into the budgets of farm businesses, energy development also costs farmers money. Others note how infrastructure requires modification to existing irrigation infrastructure, entailing extra labor and costs for the landowner: “Farmable acreage has decreased and irrigation and access have to be routed around wells.”
Only one respondent noticed that “land under pipelines and well sites are not nearly as productive as before.” Still, it is quite possible that disturbing the soil and introducing the possibility of small leaks could cause localized infertility and plant stress. Another farmer describes how “the old vertical wells were not back filled properly, so you can still see where they were. We lost production in those areas.” This points to the importance of effective soil remediation after wells are exhausted, a problem which will become of increasing importance in the future as contemporary wells begin to be plugged. Others lost production for more nuanced reasons, with one farmer experiencing “farm equipment damage with accompanying lost production time” which was caused by “debris related to oil and gas work and exploration that should have been removed.
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Some respondents note how remediation and compensation for these impacts is often negligible. This farmer experienced “loss of land production” because the operators “take more land than they need for trucks, lanes, and tanks etc.,” adding that the company “then just leaves it for us to clean up, replant, etc.” Another depicts how infrastructure “removed farmable and developable land, but compensation was minimal.” One farmer argues that surface infrastructure should be regulated and limited because companies do have the technology to place pads offsite and utilize land more efficiently: “Some land was taken out of production to accommodate drilling infrastructure. As such, and because of directional drilling technology, [I believe] fewer pads and access roads should be allowed.” However, the operator has little incentive to do this if it adds costs on their side (especially since it sounds like even mineral owners sometimes have limited control over well placement).
Another impact mentioned is reduced property values, as farmland with oil and gas wells is understandably less desirable real estate for prospective buyers (due to the very sorts of inconveniences and impacts discussed in this section). Respondents explain that “pipelines and pumping stations devalue property,” and that energy infrastructure has led to “loss of farming income and land value.” Another farmer states that “it affects property values when you have a gas well in the middle of it. Also the easements that are in place to give them access” (presumably also reducing farmable acreage and thus property value).
This is especially true since in all likelihood the mineral rights will be severed when the land is sold, if they have not already been severed, and so the buyer will not themselves receive any financial benefit from the existing wells. Moreover, the surface buyer will have no say in the process of future energy development, and oftentimes will inherit the surface use agreement of
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the previous landowner (see Experiences of Non-mineral Owners). All these factors may suppress the real estate value of farmland with oil and gas wells. In this sense, energy development may diminish producers’ assets through land devaluation and hurt their finances in the long term, whether they receive royalties or not. One respondent contends that financial compensation for surface damage is not adequate because it “does not take into account future loss of value,” such as through reduced land values or losses in crop production/acreage.
A handful of people mention excessive dust in their list of negative impacts. The hydraulic fracturing method requires mass quantities of sand to mix with the fluid during drilling (this sediment helps hold the fractures open in order to extract the gas), and silica dust emissions are released during the transport and mixing of the sand. Dust emissions are also released from any ‘construction’ site like a well pad, and drilling involves soil and vegetation removal producing dust as well. For this reason, fracking sites are often associated with large scale silica pollution.41 Wells can also create large dust emissions due to the tankers and heavy equipment traveling to the well sites on dirt roads. While this may seem like more of an inconvenience than an environmental impact, there is increasing evidence that dust from oil and gas fields have negative effects on regional air quality.42 Additionally, silica can cause a variety of lung diseases including cancer, and is acknowledged as a serious occupational hazard for oil and gas
41 John, O. R. E. N., and Joshua Oren. "Methods and systems to transfer proppant for fracking with reduced risk of production and release of silica dust at a well site." U.S. Patent 9,340,353, issued May 17, 2016.
42 Field, R. A., J. Soltis, and S. Murphy. "Air quality concerns of unconventional oil and natural gas production." Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts 16, no. 5 (2014): 954-969 ; Litovitz, Aviva, Aimee Outright, Shmuel Abramzon, Nicholas Burger, and Constantine Samaras. "Estimation of regional air-quality damages from Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania." Environmental Research Letters 8, no. 1 (2013): 014017.
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workers.43 Future research should hence explore silica dust concentrations on Weld County farms and the respiratory effects for farmers and livestock.
Surprisingly few respondents mention soil damage as a negative implication, though it does come up and probably happens to varying degrees on most farmland. A few farmers describe the “need for soil removal and replacement” following drilling, or complain that “soil is never put back into its original state when they are done.” Similarly, farmers note “damage to the fields by crews not knowing where to access,” implying that ignorance or negligence on the part of maintenance workers can cause additional soil damage. One farmer tells how the construction and constant traffic “has required that we reclaim some grassland as the oil companies do a poor job of this.” Remediation is costly for farmers, requiring ample time, labor, materials, and can also lead to longer term productions losses.
However, other respondents have had a different experience with the oil and gas companies. This farmer shares that “even just surface damage is paid for quite well and they always return the land back to its original condition” (however, this person is not a farmer, so their sense of soil damage and remediation may be limited). These different experiences can probably be explained by varying operating companies, as some probably invest more in keeping the surface users happy. Further, we know that non-mineral owners are more likely to report negative impacts, and this could be because operators use better access/remediation practices if
43 https://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/hvdraulic frac hazard alert.html; Steenland, Kyle, and Elizabeth Ward. "Silica: a lung carcinogen." CA: a cancer journal for clinicians 64, no. 1 (2014): 63-69; McDermott-Levy, Ruth, Nina Kaktins, and Barbara Sattler. "Fracking, the environment, and health." A.IN
The American Journal of Nursing 113, no. 6 (2013): 45-51.
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the surface owner is also the mineral owner (the operator has very little legal or financial obligation to a non-mineral-owner).
Lastly, many farmers have had to change elements of their farming practices due to energy development, with 2/3rds of farming respondents saying that their farming practice has changed since the wells were established. The write-ins discuss the difficulty and danger of farming around the wellheads and tank batteries, saying things like “the wells and tank batteries are in the way,” and “we have to farm around all the well heads and tank batteries.” One respondent suggests that they practice “less tilling” due to the presence of infrastructure (presumably because of the maneuvering difficulty and risk of rupturing feeder lines with the equipment, though they do not elaborate beyond this short phrase). Another clarifies that it depends if the farmer is able to negotiate the specific location of infrastructure in the fields, stating that “when the oil company cooperates with location [i.e. the placing of the wells], little changes. When not, it is a big problem to farm around.” For others, the infrastructure has never been an issue: “It is obviously something you have to work around, but does not present a significant issue most of the time.”
A couple respondents express frustration with state policy regarding setbacks. One farmer portrays how setbacks can actually reduce farm acreage as well, as farmers can no longer utilize areas in the buffer zone for certain things. Some farmers note a “loss of some land use due to setbacks,” and argue that “building restrictions around oil structures and zoning restrictions” reduce their available acreage. Another explains how the buffer regulations ironically created more rather than less problems and risks for farmer/farmland: “The changes in oil and gas regulations as to well locations being out in the field and not near the road or buildings creates a
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Full Text

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AMBIVALENT LANDSCAPES: ENERGY EXTRACTION AND FARM ING LIVELIHOODS IN WELD COUNTY, CO by CODY JAMES PETERSON B.A., University of Colorado Denver, 2014 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Applied Geography and Geospatial Sciences Program 2018

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ii This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Cody James Peterson has been approved for the Applied Geography and Geospatial Sciences Program by Brian Page, Chair Amanda Weaver Gregory Simon Date: May 12, 2018

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iii Peterson, Cody James (M.A., Applied Geography and Geospatial Sciences Program ) Ambivalent Landscapes: Energy Extraction and Farm ing Livelihoods in Weld County, CO Thesis directed by Associate Professor Brian Page ABSTRACT M uch of the oil and gas extraction in Weld County takes place on private farmland and thus requires royalty payments to mineral owners. Although energy extraction on active farmland involves significant environmental risks, particularly with hydraulic fracturing or While the influence of such large supplem en tary cash flows on farmer decision making is not yet well term farm investments, and may have major implications for socio economic and technological change in agricultural communities. For example, it is likely that energy royalties buffer farmers from chronic economic and environmental volatility (due to low commod ity prices and crop losses), providing a vital financial safety net for vulnerable farms. Extra cash could also make possible novel investment choices, such as resource conservation technologies or college education, as well as encourage farmers to leave l and fallow for soil recovery. Conversely, cash from royalties also fluctuates, and may ultimately increase the debt burden and financial volatility of small farms. Moreover, many farmers are not mineral owners, and hence a significant proportion of royalty cash is never in fact re invested in agricultural production at all. This research surveys Weld County farmers in order to explore the nuanced socio economic dynamics of energy royalty cash in agriculture. Such insights could either complicate and/or rein force conventional The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Brian Page

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iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Special thanks to: Sue Ed dleman of the Dept. of Geography and Environmental Sciences, for assisting with printing and mailing logistics for the survey. Dr. Deborah Thomas, Chair of the Dept. of Geography and Environmental Sciences, for providing financial resources for mailing cos ts. Dr. Brian Page, for continuing to encourage me to pursue the project, and providing ample support and guidance without micromanaging the analysis. Many of the important ideas contained in the survey and analysis were stimulated through conversations wi th Dr. Page, and this project would not have been nearly as successful without his input. Dr. Amanda Weaver, for having the ingenuous idea to use a basic spatial join to find landowners and mailing to these parcel addresses. Th e entire methodology was bas ically her idea . My friends and family, and in particular my partner Sarah, for tolerating the stress and all of the blood (paper cuts), sweat, and tears that went into finishing this document.

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTIO N 3 Popular Representations of Energy and Agriculture in the Fracking Directional Hydraulic Fracturing . 6 Agricultural Risk Assess ment . 8 .. 9 Complexities of F armer Decision making . . 13 ... 16 First World Political Ecology . 20 Ambivalent Landscapes Relevance /J ustification : Royalties and Farm Investment . 2 8 II. SURVEY OF FARMER PERSPECTIVES 3 Survey Results Graphs and Tables 9

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vi III. THEMES AND INTERPRE TATIONS . 5 4 6 4 Environmental Impacts and Farming Practices 82 Mineral Ownership and Inequalities in Decision making/Positive Impact 100 IV. CONCLU DING STATEMENTS .120 APPENDIX 2 B: Survey Materials 32

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION M uch of the oil and gas extraction in Weld County , CO takes place on private farmland rather than on public or federal land, and thus requires royalty payments to private mineral owners . These royalty payments can infuse substantial cash into many , sometimes dramatically altering farm businesses by bolstering annual expenditures , accelerating debt repayment, and influencing long er term farm investments . Moreover, because most American farmers de pend on non farm income to sustain their farming business, extra income from minerals is likely an important component of the regional agricultural economy in Weld . Farmers can receive many tens of thousands of dollars in annual royalty payments, especiall y in the first years of well operation such large sums almost certainly have major implications for socio economic and technological change in agricultural communities like those in Weld County . This research intends to provide preliminary insight into such questions : Do oil and gas making , and if so, how exactly ? Where does that money go, and what does it mean for agricultural production , farm infrastructure, and the sustainability of farm finances ? Does extra income effect crop production on individual farms by providing access to new equipment and irrigation technology? Relatedly , it has been suggested that energy extraction is good for the agricultural economy because royalties buffer farmers fro m chronic economic and environmental volatility, providing a vital financial safety net for vulnerable farms. While t his is certainly a possibility, this research attempts to test such

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2 assertions against real in Weld County, do royalti es indeed protect farming households from the unpredictable market and from crop losses? Conversely, because cash from royalties also fluctuate s frequently ( similar to food commodity prices ) , dependence on royalties could ultimately increase rather than decrease the financial v ulnerability of small farms , especially if initial royalt y payments increase the total annual expenses of farm households and encourage the use of credit for large expenses. More importantly, many farmers do not in fact own the minerals beneath their land and do not receive any direct financial gain from energy development on their farmland. Much of the mineral rights for agricultural parcels in Weld County are owned as assets by someone other than the farmer, and hence a significant proportion of royalty cash is never re invested in agricultural production at all. Clearly then , the proportion of farmers who do and do not own their minerals is a critical component of this research . If the majority of farmers here have mineral rights, royalty cash may if any strong positive effects on fa rm security and agricultural development in Weld . I t is difficult to discuss energy development on farmland without also acknowledging the possibility of various forms of contamination. While farmers often receive immense financial benefit by participati ng in energy development, they also accept very real environmental risks. Many landowners are simply not concerned about contamination, deeming it unlikely and easily managed, while others decide that the financial benefit exceeds the potential risks. Still others are deeply troubled by evidence of possible damage to groundwater, surface water, soil, or livestock, and have reservations about the scale of current energy development. Risk assessment and

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3 management are instrum ental to farmer decision making, and unconventional gas development on farmland poses some unique challenges and uncertainties. Hence, t h is paper also explores the perspectives of farmers regarding risks to their natural resources, cataloging how different farmers evaluate the risk of contamination from natural gas wells in their decision making process . In summary , t his research attempts to take the pulse of Weld County farmers who participate in energy development , using a random experiences with and opinions about energy extraction and royalty receipt . It also explores recent farm expenditures in order to evaluate the possibility of idiosyncratic investment priorities and unexpected socio econ omic outcomes of energy development for farming households. More generally, it seek s to provide vital insight into the nuanced relationship between agriculture and energy extraction in the US West. Context Energy and Agriculture In the United States, e ne rgy and agriculture are fundamentally interconnected. Not only does it require enormous amounts of energy and fossil fuels to produce food (manufacturing petrochemicals, fueling farm equipment, as well as processing, refrigerating, and transporting agricul tural produce), but a large fraction of energy extraction actually occurs on active farmland. In driving across the Central U.S., it is impossible not to notice the tens of thousands of well pads scattered a bout the cornfields, signifying a relationship which is materially, visually, and socially inscribed on the modern rural landscape. In other words, t he landscapes from which we procure fossil fuels are often the very same landscapes where we grow our produc e a nd raise

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4 livestock , and there are complex economic, legal, political, and environmental implications of thi s intersection . T his paper explores one example of those implications . Th e research is hence generally situated within studies of the water energy fo od nexus, and attempt s to provide new insights into the meaning of th e tentative economic and environmental linkages between energy extraction and food production in the U.S . I n Weld County , these land use s have even more dramatic spatial overlap . Of the 22,000 oil and gas wells in the county, over 15,000 (or 68%) exist on areas designated as cultivated agricultural land . 1 This indicates that a large proportion of farmers here interact with oil and gas on a regular basis (these interactions can take a vari ety of forms, either through receiving royalty payments, negotiating surface use agreements, negotiating compensation and reclamation for surface damage like crop loss or soil compaction, compensating for acreage lost to energy infrastructure, literally fa rming around that infrastructure, or any combination thereof). These interactions are important for understanding farming livelihoods and changes to the rural economy. Most i mportantly, this strong overlap implies that millions of dollars in energy royalti es are being paid to farmers in Weld every year . Popular Representations of Energy and Agriculture in the Fracking Debate T he oil and gas industry is of course not oblivious to the benefits of energy royalt ies for farming communities , and pro energy PR campaigns have deployed this argument in an attempt to sway public opinion on hydraulic fracturing. In 2014, Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED, an oil and gas advocacy group founded by Anadarko Petroleum 1

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5 Corporation and Nobl e Energy ) 2 released a television advertisement featuring an organic goat farmer who claims that mineral rights keep her in business. 3 The argument goes that most farms cannot make a profit on agriculture alone , so mineral development prevents farmers from being forced to sell their land s mall seen as especially expensive and financially fragile , and therefore benefits immensely from energy development as opposed to being imperiled by it. This same argument is m ade by dozens of farmers interviewed in the popular documentary FrackNation , which primarily defends the practice and contends that most farmers actually support ( and benefit from ) hydraulic fracturing . The point being that this idea has become a fundamental feature of a national discourse about the costs and benefits of unconventional gas. While this research does not discriminate between oil, conventional gas, and unconventional gas, it is nonetheless designed to assess the broader validity of this common anecdotal claim in Weld, does mineral development indeed prevent farmers from going out of business , or is this merely a convenient rhetoric? While the claim is oft repeated in p ro energy discourse , no one has yet bothered to analyz e financial effects on a meaningful scale . On the other hand, anti fracking portrayals have emphasized hydraulic fracturing as a serious threat to agricultural livelihoods that systematically pollutes irrigation and drinking wate r and harms livestock . The popular documentary G in part credited for instigating the national anti fracking movement, contains spectacular scenes of farmers igniting their contaminated well water. Activists often appeal to farmers (and the food system more 2 https://www.cred.org/about cred coloradans for responsible energy development/ 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETSFuDM7QR0&app=desktop

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6 bro adly) as the victims of energy companies who destroy farmland , including with slogans like ! fracking our food supply ! This rhetoric draws on evidence that cracked well casings can leak toxic fluid and methane into grou ndwater, potentially contaminating crops. It also builds on farmer anecdotes wh ich say that the company traffic damages fertile soil and creates unwanted dust, noise, and light pollution. While there are very rea l and significant risks associated with hydraulic fracturing , these portrayals sometimes depend more on emotional appeal and considerable hyperbole than on scientific research . All of this is to say that farmers and farming figure prominently in popular representations of the fracking controver sy . W hether in supporting or opposing hydraulic fracturing , both sides frequently appeal to the value and virtue of agriculture in formulating their arguments. W ith these two extreme and largely exaggerated versions , concerned citizens frequently lack neut ral or substantial information about the benefits and risks of energy development for agricultural communities. This research seeks to counter simplistic and one dimensional popular representations of farmers, instead depicting the genuine diversity, creativity, and ambivalence of agricultural decision making. Directional Hydraulic Fracturing It is difficult to discuss the risks and opportunities of modern energy extraction without appreciating the role of technological innovation in the d rilling process. The contemporary boom in U.S. energy production is predominantly a product of two methods which can dramatically increase output for less accessible shale formations and for already depleted wells : hydraulic

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7 fracturing and directional ( or horizontal ) drilling. 4 H ydraulic fracturing is a type of well boring that uses high pressure chemical fluid to fracture rock formations and extract the otherwise inaccessible trace natural gas embedded in the shale . 5 Directional drilling is a complex borin g technique which can create non vertical and even sinuous wells, allowing access to oil or gas reserves where vertical access is not possible, such as under a town, lake, or a formation which is difficult to drill (i.e. it allows much greater flexibility in the placement of the surface well pad). While some non vertical boring has been possible for almost a century, massive improvements in speed, efficiency, and depth during the last 15 years have dramatically increased the efficacy and cost effectiveness of the process. I t was following the se i nnov a tions that new energy development proliferated in the US, particularly natural gas in large shale reserves like the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, the Haynesville shale in Louisiana, the Bakken Formation in North Dakota , and the Wattenberg Gas Field in Northern Colorado . Many of these places are predominantly agricultural, possibly indicating a concurrent spike in energy royalties to farming households. Directional wells tend to be more productive than conven tional wells, contribut ing to augmented royalty payments. 6 Perhaps equally significantly, because horizontal drilling allows surface infrastructure to be placed offsite, this technique can reduce potential local surface impacts such as soil compaction, vegetation removal , spills, decreased air quality , and loss of farmland or habitat . 7 4 Lave, Rebecca, and Lutz , Brian . "Hydraulic fracturing: a critical physical geography review." Geography compass 8, no. 10 (2014): 739 754. 5 https://www.cred.org/explore/what is fracking 6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directional_drilling 7 Lave, Rebecca, and Lutz , Brian . "Hydraulic fracturing: a critical physical geography review." Geography compass 8, no. 10 (2014): 739 754.

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8 Farmers and Environmental Risk Assessment Energy extraction always involves potential damage to natural resources, perhaps especially with unconventional techniques such as directional hydraulic fracturing. Farmers must assess and manage many uncertain risks when drilling takes place on their land . U nderstanding how farmers conceptualize the possibility of damage to their resources may give insight into the nature of such risks h ence why part of this research investigates farmer perception and assessment of spill risk when making agronomic / business decisions. While there are indeed definitive risks to farmland associated with unconv entional energy extraction, the full extent of those risks is disputed. 8 The primary concern surrounds evidence of possible groundwater contamination from fracking flu id during the drilling process , usually due to compromised concrete well casings . 9 B ecause irrigation is so fundamental to agricultural produ ction on the Front Range, effects on water resources are an especially problematic risk . In addition, some research suggests that methane leakage can negatively affect soil, crops, and livestock , and t here is concern regarding the appropriate closing or capping of abandoned wells which pose uncertain long term leakage risks. 10 While spectacular contamination events are not 8 Farah, Naima. "Fracking and Land Productivity: Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing on Agriculture." In Implications of North American Energy Self Sufficiency, 34th USAEE/IAEE N orth American Conference, Oct 23 26, 2016 . International Association for Energy Economics, 2016.; Lave, Rebecca, and Brian Lutz. "Hydraulic fracturing: a critical physical geography review." Geography compass 8, no. 10 (2014): 739 754; for a general discus sion of fracking and environmental impact, see Appendix A. 9 Burton, G. Allen, Niladri Basu, Brian R. Ellis, Katherine E. Kapo, Sally Entrekin, and Knute Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 33, no. 8 (2014): 1679 1689. 10 Pichtel, John. "Oil and gas production wastewater: Soil contamination and pollution prevention." Applied and environmental soil science 2016 (2016) ; Ong, Beng. "The potential impacts of hydraulic fra cturing on agriculture." European Journal of Sustainable Development 3, no. 3 (2014): 63 72.

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9 exactly common, spills happens on a regular basis and many scientists consider this to be a serious chronic risk associated with unconventional techniques. There are safety risks as well, as farmers must run their equipment around well pads and tank batteries, as well as tilling on top of explosive feeder lines which often criss cros s underneath their fields (fatal explosions can and do occur on natural gas well pads in Weld, albeit relatively infrequently). Traffic from oil and gas crews can also cause many inconveniences for farming families, such as noise and light pollution, exces s dust, soil compaction, and road damage. Although farmers both with and without mineral rights are usually compensated for spills and other surface damage, this compensation is not always viewed as adequate , and i n any case full remediation of fragile res ources like soil is not always possible. I t should be noted that farmers perspectives on spill risks are far from homogenous . M any people have happily cooperated with oil and gas companies for decades, hav ing few reservations about such risks ; o thers take these possibilities very seriously and only reluctantly or involuntarily allow drilling to occur. This research ca t alogs farmers opinion s about spill risk and other negative impacts of energy extraction in order to 1) explore the general dynamics of envir onmental risk assessment in farmer decision making, and 2) provide a basic poll of opinions specific to Weld Count y , in order to deduce if spills are in fact a major concern of average Colorado farmers who lease their mineral rights . Mineral Rights, Royalties, and the Split Estate in CO Unlike elsewhere in the West where much of the energy extraction takes place on public or federal land through government leases, the majority of natural gas reserves in Weld are located beneath privately owned farmland. However, not all farmers own the legal rights to the

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10 mineral resources which exist beneath their land. Colorado operates under a split estate system in which surface and subsurface rights can be detached from one another , meaning that the l andowner/resident/farmer is often not the same person as the mineral rights owner. 11 This is extremely important for understanding the effects of mineral royalties for farming households because only the mineral owner receives royalty payments, not the surf ace owner ( al though certain surface owners do receive some financial compensation). 12 While mineral ownership is essential for studying energy royalties, the distribution of mineral ownership in farming communities is not well understood. There is no official public record when mineral rights are sold , only the unique chain of title for individual deeds, and hence there is no complete public database of mineral ownership in Colorado. 13 Therefore, there is no way to know exactly how many farmers do and do not own their minerals, and it becomes exceedingly difficult to estimate the financial effects of royalty payments for farming businesses . This research attempts to establish how common it is for Weld County farmers to own their minerals and receive roy alty payments , and thus how many farmers have benefited directly from energy development. It is payments anyways ; conversely, it is possible that most farmers own minerals and have prof ited from extraction . 11 Libecap, Gary. "Economic variables and the development of the law: The case of western mineral rights." Empirical studies in institutional change (1996): 57; https://www.coloradooilgaslawyers.com/Oil and Gas Law/Mineral Rights Severing Reservation of Minerals.aspx 12 https://cogcc.state.co.us/documents/about/Help/Surface%20Owners%20Brochure.pdf 13 Weld County Assessor, Personal Correspondence; EPA Region 8 Energy Advisor, Personal Correspondence.

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11 Importantly, in a mineral owner has considerable legal precedence over a surface owner, in the sense that the right to access the subsurface takes priority over any surface rights. 14 This means that a surface owner cannot prevent a mineral owner from accessing the subsurface resources even if it involves (temporarily) appropriating or damaging surface land in other words, surface owners are legally obligated to cooperate with the needs of the mineral owne r. So, a lthough surface owners usually must be compensated for the presence of platforms and other infrastructure, they cannot reject drilling on their land outright if someone else has acquired the subsurface mineral rights . Consequently, som e farmers must tolerate drilling against their wishes and with little to no financial benefit , perhaps leading to conflict between surface and mineral owners who disagree about how the land should be managed. 15 For those farmers who do own their minerals, the financial gain can be immense. A royalty payment is a percentage of all revenue produced by the well. The royalty rate can vary l ease with the extraction company. The royalty rate often depends on the expected productivity of the well, and can also be effected market forces which create competition in the local leasing market, such as the number of other producers offering leases in the area or the number of other nearby mineral owners. T he onshore royalty rates for federal lands are set at 12.5%, whereas royalty rates on 14 The Denver Post. 05 Mar 2015; https://cogcc.state.co.us/documents/about/ Help/Surface%20Owners%20Brochure.pdf 15 Miller, Andrew M. "A journey through mineral estate dominance, the accommodation doctrine, and beyond: why Texas is ready to take the next step with a surface damage act." Hous. L. Rev. 40 (2003): 461 ; Brimmer, Clar ence A. "The Rancher's Subservient Surface Estate." Land & Water L. Rev. 5 (1970): 49.

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12 private lands are usually between 10 15% recall that because a single well can produce tens of thousands of dollars a month, a difference of only a few percent amounts to a difference of thousands in annual royalties. 16 These substantial sums illustrate the power of royalty payments for struggling farm businesses. However, it should be noted that well production tends to d ecrease dramatically over time, as do the size of royalty payments. A well is most productive in the first year or two, during which royalty payments can be over $10,000 a month, but in the succeeding years royalty payments will decline steadily until the well is no longer profitable to operate. 17 While royalties may have major positive financial implications for farmers in the initial year, those benefits cannot be depended upon indefinitely and the cash will ultimately dry up. Moreover, the royalty is tied to well revenue and hence is effected by fluctuations in the price of natural gas. Energy markets are notoriously unstable, usually operating in series of booms and busts, meaning that royalty payments can fluctuate on a month ly basis. As the value of natural gas plummeted in 2016 In this sense, royalty payments are quite volatile and may make for an unreliable financial safety net the resea rch is designed to explore this possibility as well. On the other hand, as in the "split estate" situation, farmers who do not own any subsurface rights receive no direct benefit from the minerals and have quite limited legal entitlements. Still, surface owners can negotiate particular needs and limitations with the well operator. E nergy companies usually establish contrac ts with surface owners called 16 http://blackbearddata.com/oil and gas royalties what they are 17 https://geology.com/royalty/production decline.shtml

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13 agreements which stipulate guidelines for access to and use of the surface land (i.e. the farm). These agreements vary but often involve limitations on wellhead placement, placement of roads, batteries, feeder lines, and other surface infrastructure, points of access, noise and dust control , buil ding s etback requirements , damage compensation in the event of an accident (which are sometimes paid upfront to avoid broader liability) , as well as soil/vegetation reclamation obligations following the completion of the well. In addition, some surface own ers are able to ac quire upfront or periodic financial compensation for the presence of surface infrastructure, but most surface use agreements do not give significant financial entitlements to the surface owner. Complexities of Farmer Decision making Farming households are face d with a variety of risks and opportunities in their seasonal decision making process , in which they have to read the market and make difficult decisions about when and what to plant. They also must navigate complicated investmen t choices in attempting to use their scarce cash to maximize productivity in the future given uncertain economic and environmental conditions (what type of equipment or technology should be purchased to improve the farm? Should one try to save labor, money , or natural resources?) Further, they must make decisions about debt and credit accrual, when and how to hire extra labor, as well as participation in various forms of government assistance (financial and technical). These interacting concerns create soph isticated problems and force people to establish their priorities as a business . 18 18 Barlett, Peggy F., ed. Agricultural decision making: Anthropological contributions to rural development . Academic Press, 2016 ; Just, Richard E., and Rulon D. Pope, eds. A c omprehensive assessment of the role of risk in US agriculture . Vol. 23. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013 ; Edwards Jones, Gareth. "Modelling farmer decision making: c oncepts, progress and challenges." Animal

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14 Of course , an important element of decision making and risk management on the farm is the chronic environmental risks which can devastate crops and cause significant financi al hardship. 19 All farmers in Eastern Colorado depend on full reservoirs and canals to irrigate their crops periodic drought and unpredictable water availability due to low snowpack/runoff are increasing concerns, and a large, extended drought would damage many livelihoods. Further, violent spring hailstorms can destroy entire annual crops. These environmental risks can translate into substantial financial losses and even threaten the financial sustainability of smaller farming households. There is also the intrinsic volatility of commodity markets. Food commodity prices can rise and fall in response to global demand, and are deeply affected by speculative activity. The prices of important staples like corn and wheat have been weak and falling in the last few years, leaving many farmers unable to invest in their farms. 20 As a general trend in U.S. agriculture , commodity prices are too low for most farmers to make a living on their agricultural income alone. A primary consequence of this fact is the diversifica tion of farmer incomes. The overwhelming majority of farming households in the U.S. have other sources of income beyond farming to buffer them from low and/or unpredictable commodity prices , with many farms acquiring the majority of their income through non farm activities. 21 This adds another layer of science 82.6 (2006): 783 790 ; Rougoor, Ca rin W., et al. "How to define and study farmers' management capacity: theory and use in agricultural economics." Agricultural economics 18.3 (1998): 261 272. 19 Barkley, Andrew, and Paul W. Barkley. Principles of agricultural economics . Routledge , 2013. 20 S utherland, Lee Ann, et al. "Triggering change: towards a conceptualization of major change processes in farm decision making." Journal of environmental management. 104 (2012): 142 151; Simpson, Kevin. The Denver Post. 15 Feb 2015. 21 USDA Census of Agriculture .

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15 complexity, as farmers must seek out alternative forms of income and become simultaneously engaged in other industries and labors. Energy royalties are of course an important piece of this diversification of farm incomes budgets. circumstances. In this sense, it is important to appreciate the complexity and diffi culty of the decision making process on farms. Farming households must navigate a variety of complicated socio environmental scenarios across scales in order to maintain their livelihoods this intricate network o f conflicting dynamics includes global macro economic events, US agricultural policy, regional energy development, local soil and water sustainability, as well as natural hazards and even climate change. 22 Negotiating this multifaceted sector is by no means straightforward, and involves ambiguous, ev en contradictory sets of risk and opportunity. Energy development and royalty receipt add another layer of complexity to already intricate decision making circumstances. offs is essential for understanding processes of rural and agricultural change. In this context, in spite of the additional risks to agricultural land that energy extraction may entail, and in spite of the equal volatility of the energy market, the extra cash flow from ener gy royalties could have socio economic benefits that farming households with tenuous and unpredictable livelihoods simply cannot pass up. 22 Barlett, Peggy F., ed. Agricultural decision making: Anthropological contributions to rural development . Academic Press, 2016 .

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16 Economy of Weld County, CO Like the state of Colorado, Weld County has a remarkably diversified economy. Dozens of industries beyond energy and agriculture provide growth and income to the area, including construction, real estate, manufacturing, health care, retail, and government. 23 Still, energy and agriculture remain two of the most significant industries for the co unty economy. Agriculture has actually declined as a share of GDP in the past 10 years, but still accounts for a significant proportion of output. 24 Energy has obviously contributed many billions of dollars in growth, wages, and tax revenue since production accelerated in the mid Weld is the fifth highest grossing county in the nation in the agricultural industry, generating almost $2 billion dollars in annual revenues from agricultural products, especially beef and sugar beets. There is 1.9 million acres of farmland and rangeland in Weld, accounting or pasture (which accounts for the largest proportion of agricultural land). 25 Yet it also boasts some of the highest densities of natural gas wells in the U.S., with over 22,000 active oil or gas wells and an additional 11,500 plugged or abandoned wells in the county, astronomically more than any other county in Colorado hence why Weld has become one of th e poster children of 23 Weld County Government Website. 24 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis 25 USDA Census of Agriculture; USGS National Land Cover Classification.

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17 economy. 26 Both agriculture and energy extrac tion employ thousands of people in the study area. 27 Energy development has created significant job growth, adding hundreds of jobs in some years and contributing to some of the highest job growth rates in the country and cutting unemployment by nearly two thirds since 2010 (though it should be noted that many of those jobs are lost when production declines and regained when the market recovers). One of the most substantial ways that oil and gas contribute to the county economy is through taxes. In 2014, the add up to over $50 million annually. 28 For its part, taxes on farmland contribute over $7 million in tax revenue to the county. In short, these two industries ma ke up a substantial part of the regional economy, and hence their interactions have broad implications. Insights from the Census of Agriculture There is a total of almost 2,000,000 acres under production in Weld County, which is down 6% since 2007 due to urbanization, oil and gas, and other factors . Only 300,000 or about 15% of those acres are irrigated , indicating a reliance on dryland agriculture. However, those 15% of irrigated acres also produce a substantial proportion of the counties sales due to the ir higher value crops. The a verage size of farm s is 555 acres , but the median is only 80 acres (suggesting that some exceptionally large farms distort the mean a more accurate 26 https://www.coga.org/wp content/uploads/2015/1 2/COGA 2014 OG Economic Impact Study.pdf ; COGCC GIS Data. 27 US Census, ACS 2017; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. 28 The Denver Post. 15 Feb 2015.

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18 representation is probably the median which denotes a majority of fairly small o perations of less than 100 acres) . This is supported by the fact that the majority of farms in Weld have total annual sales of less than $50,000. Average farm size has increased by 4% since 2007 , and t he total number of farms has declined 10% in the same p eriod , indicating some farm consolidation . The most significant commodity Cattle and calves , followed by Grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas , then Fruits, tree nuts, and berries . In terms of total value of sales, livestock husbandry and processing is by far the largest agricultural industry, which is dominated by the feedlots and slaughterhouses near Greeley. Accordingly, the majority of farm land in Weld is pasture with 53% , provid ing cattle and calves to the feedlots and slaughterhouses . 43% of land is under crop production, with the remainder under other uses such as open space or energy production . This distribution also reflects the fairly small proportion of irrigated land, as most pasture is dryland in Northern Colorado. The majority of irrigated land is for higher value fruit, vegetable, and tree crops, while the majority of corn, grain, and hay are also dryland. The a verage age of farmer s in Weld is 5 8, perhaps indicating an aging farming population and raising questions about the next generation of farmers t he US farming population in general is aging, and there are uncertainties about who will replace them. Many children of farming households have no interest in farming, an d these family farms may be sold in the next 20 years. Th is turnover may have major implications for American agriculture, as the next generation of farmers may have different values and make different decisions in terms of land management , marketing, tech nology, and inputs; alternatively, this land could be consolidated under larger entities which lease land to others or expand their existing operation.

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19 This aging dynamic is also interesting for our research question because when farmers retire, they may s ell or lease their land but retain the mineral rights as an asset/for income. When these people pass and cede their mineral assets to their non farming children, more royalty money will be siphoned away from the agricultural economy . This will effectively creat e more split estates in Weld and could reduce the number of farmers who own mineral rights . According to the 2012 Agricultural Census, about 35% of all land in Weld County is rented or leased as opposed to farmed by the owner . Unfortunately, the USDA does not collect more detailed tenure information at the state and county levels for Colorado ( the 2014 Tenure and Ownership survey is generalized to the entire Western region , which is of little use for these purposes ). For example, it would be useful to know if the landlords in Weld are owner operators (people who farm themselves but also lease land to others) or non operators (landlords who do not farm at all). Nonetheless, this data and our survey suggests that leasing in Weld is quite common, and that a fair number of these landlords are probably non operators. This is important because it suggests that many farmers own neither the minerals nor the surface, making it difficult for them to invest extra cash in production technology. Most importantly, t he 2012 USDA census confirms the significance of non farm income in Weld County. There are 1,754 farms where the p farming , and 1,771 where the primary occupation is not farming . Of these 3,500 farmers, 2,159 worked for money away from their farm during the year , and over 40% ( 1,408 ) worked off the farm more than 200 days that year. This confirms that non farm income is a vital component of the finances of many farming households; the relatively small size and annual sales of most

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20 farms in Weld corroborates this speculation, as small operations are likely to need supplemental income. First World Political Ecology in Weld County Broadly defined, p olitical e cology nature and society through a careful analysis of the forms of access and control over resources, 29 Th e subdiscipline is diverse and tends to deliberately avoid coherent definition , but such work generally draws on techniques and ideas in anthropology, human geography, and critical theory to study the profoundly political causes and consequences of ecological change . 30 Although it would not be accurate to describe this project as tru e political ecology research, it nonetheless provides the inspiration for my inquiry. While this review of political ecology is far from exhaustive, it highlights some of the primary ideas which are relevant to energy development in Northern Colorado. In p articular , I draw on the nascent field of First World p olitical e cology for theoretical and methodological context. Historically, p olitical e cology researched has focused on environmental change and conflict in the post colonial world, frequently using the experiences of local smallholders in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia as case studies. A bout 15 years ago, some political ecology scholars began to turn their attention to other landscapes, notably the American West. 29 A companion to economic geograph y (pp. 257 276). Oxford, 2001. 30 Robbins, Paul. Political ecology: A critical introduction. Vol. 16. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

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21 McCarthy influentially contend ed that t he methodologies of political ecolog ist could be fruitfully applied to environmental conflicts in advanced capitalist countries as well . As he argues, s urely no one doubts that environmental politics and complex socioecological relationships are to be found everywhere, or that researchers can understand them better by spending time talking to the people involved . 31 These political ecologists maintain that c onventional approaches to natural resource management and environmental conflict in industr ialized countries are too parochial, in that they usually appeal to formal legal structures, rational choice models, or the environmental science in order to empirically deduce if a particular activity is either legal, economically or politically sensible, or ecologically harmful. 32 McCarthy argues that such analyses proceed from the premise that there are definite, knowable answers to these questions, and that finding those answers does not necessarily require talking to the people whose actions a re in question . Although c ritical research on land management and environmental issues in the Euro American world also already exist s in the fields of rural sociology, agrarian political economy, and critical resource geography , such work also lacks some of the crucial insights of political ecology methods . 33 According to McCarthy, p olitical ecology presumes a far richer terrain of relations and conflicts. At more `local' scales, it assumes that informal property relations, micropolitics, socially unequal distributions of risks and benefits, attachments to particular livelihoods, and many other 31 McCarthy, James. "First World political ecology: lessons from the Wise Use movement." Environment and planning A 34.7 (2002) : 1281 1302. 32 McCarthy, J ames . First world political ecology: Directions and challenges. Environment and Planning A , 37 .6 , (2005) : 953 9 58. 33 Galt, Ryan E. "Placing food systems in first world political ecology: A review and research agenda." Geography Compass 7.9 (2013): 637 658 ; Robbins, Paul. "Obstacles to a First World political ecology? Looking near without looking up." Environment and planning A 34.8 (2002): 1509 1513.

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22 factors difficult to model ( and best discoverable through intensive qualitative research ) are likely to be central to the dynamics of human environment relations. So, in what ways is this research deploying a distinctly p olitical e cology approach? As emphasized above, political ecology is often defined by methodological considerations which prioritize finer scaled ethnographic work and the experiences of local people with underrepresented perspectives. While my project is far from ethnographic (in p art due to limitations of time and resources), it is inspired by First World political ecology research which accentuates local context , and is very much attempt ing model es, and memories of local farmers . 34 But beyond methodology, this project is also derived from essential theoretical concepts in the political ecology tradition. Specifically, I draw on the following ideas : 1) an emphasis on unequal power dynamics in land u se decision making, 2) an explicit concern for scale, in part uncertainty, risk, and the production of scientific knowledge, and 4) calling into question dominant representations of environmental issues in popular culture. 1) Unequal power dynamics in land use decision making: B ecause of the way mineral rights work in the state of Colorado, actors who own minerals are given significant privileges and landowners wi thout mineral rights are often subject to the interests of the mineral owner. Most importantly, a landowner without mineral rights cannot prevent energy development on 34 McCarthy, James. "First World political ecology: lessons from the Wise Use movement." Environment and planning A 34.7 (2002): 1281 1302 ; Galt, Ryan E. "Placing food systems in first world political ecology: A review and research agenda." Geography Compass 7.9 (2013): 637 658 ; Adkin, Laurie, ed. First world petro politics: the political ecology and governance of Alberta . University of Toronto Press, 2016 ; ecologies: toward a political ecology of the rural American West." Progress in Human Geography 27.1 (2003): 7 24 .

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23 their land even if they object . In addition, they have little control over the practical details of the extraction operation, such as well placement, access points, access timing, and noise/dust control. Moreover, surface land is not always properly remediated following development, and landowners do not always feel they have been fairly comp ensated for surface damage and other inconveniences, yet they often have very little legal recourse or negotiating power. Mineral rights can allow the owner to extract value from distant places in which they may not have personal stake, and sometimes do so at the expense of the landowner (due to spills, soil compaction, reduced air quality, etc) . In these ways, the process of energy development is fundamentally political, and inequality in decision making is an essential feature of the legal relationships that structure land management practices . This political lens in analyzing environmental change is the essential tenet of political ecology, and gives this research its theoretical foundation. 2) An explicit concern for scale: Political ecology is often differentiated from other forms of socio ecological research due to its emphasis on the role of geographic and institutional scale in defi ning the politic s of environmental change. In fact, Paul Robbins goes so far as to define p olitical ecology as a methodology to trace the environmental impacts of socioeconomic practices across scale s (Robbins, 2011). This has frequently taken the form of commodity chain analyses , or research which highlights the role of international organiza tions in establishing highly localized conservation and development practices. Importantly, this philosophy amounts to finer scaled analyses and a focus on the nuances of local context research then attempts to more thoroughly connect interlink ing effects across scales (global local assemblages). Scale is significant for this project not only because it explores the idiosyncrasies of local experience, but

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24 because it necessarily situates those experiences within other scales of decision making. Farmers are d irectly affected by national agricultural policy and state energy regulations, as well as by complex, globalized markets for grain and petroleum , and therefore their local decisions are framed and constrained by large scale events. While this research does not directly explore those linkages, they evidently provide essential context for the inquiry. 3) Exploring the politics of uncertainty, risk, and the production of scientific knowledge: Following insights from Science and Technology Studies, p olitical ecology explores the role of (often contentious) scientific knowledge in producing certain environmental outcomes. While this research does not investigate the production of knowledge about contamination risks, nor how decision makers use scientif ic knowledge to guide policy, it necessarily involves the competing truth/knowledge claims of different stakeholders. Some local actors may believe that excessive and underregulated energy extraction amounts to a grave risk to local health, safety, and nat ural resources, while others may view the same technology as not only ecologically benign but an important vehicle of local economic development , national energy independence, and even national/regional identity. How farmers generate personal knowledge of contamination risks (or lack thereof), both through media, consultants, company personnel, and personal experiences, directly pertains to the risk perception and management behavior we would like to illuminate. Hence, a critical look at the formation of di fferent scientific and local knowledges is an important component of the project. Moreover, risk is often not distributed equally amongst actors, as some are more or less vulnerable to exposure this research implicitly explores differences in risks/impacts between mineral and non mineral owners.

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25 4) Calling into question dominant representations of environmental issues: Lastly, political ecology often critiques the problematic portrayals of environmental issues in mainstream media by representing the comple x and contradictory realities on the ground . As the Justification, popular discourse on hydraulic fracturing (whether for or against) usually gives a distorted im pression of the relationship between energy and agriculture. Th is project aspires to problematize both representations of farmers and extraction in popular media (particularly documentaries and public outreach) by illuminating the diversity of experience s and perspectives amongst farmers. Ambivalent Landscapes Which finally leads us to the title what exactly is an ambivalen t landscape, and how does the word ecological scenario? My use of them term has layered meanings, some more metaphorical and others more literal, but they all revolve around the effectively mixed, variegated, and hybrid features of a soci o ecological landscape. Ambivalence describes a state of two simultaneous but contradictory feelings; in this sense, we could think of an ambivalent landscape as a place of multiple valences , which co exist but often conflict . My meaning also involves features which are both ethically and epistemologically uncertain, as if caug ht in a moment of indecision. For one, Weld County could be considered materially ambivalent in that its land has clearly m ixed/overlapping uses , practices which tentatively co exist but may ultimately contradict one another . Th ese mixed land uses make for a visually and socio economically ambivalent landscape , whose future and ultimate identity are indeterminate. There is also a

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26 broader social and cultural ambivalence around the use of this land people in Weld County , and indeed in the state of Co lora do, a ppear unsure and conflicted about the relative risks and opportunities of the fracking boom . Many people see great economic benefits through employment, growth in secondary businesses, royalty payments, and tax revenue, while others simultaneously acknowledg e the risks and uncertainties which accompany economic growth. These opposing perspectives have already created a great deal of political conflict and controversy, especially for growing cities who wish to limit drilling in their proximity. On a more personal scale, i ndividual decision makers such as farmers can often have mixed feelings themselves , unsure about the costs but compelled by the benefits . It is important to remember that p eople are not always fully committed, they can waffle and waver and change their minds , they can have reservations and make reluctant decisions i n short, the ir decisions and the perspectives that guide them are complex , dynamic , and sometimes contradictory . Our research finds that some farmers occupy an ambivalen t position in relation to the wells on their land , and that many people are not at all certain if energy development is ultimately good for agricultural communities . This sense of ambivalence is of course not unique to Northern Colorado. I find these sort s of scenarios are quite common to land use conflicts and the ideologies that shape them. Hence I find it useful to conceptualize environmental conflict as a sort of social ambivalence, in which a culture tries to negotiate its contradictory values and pra ctices. First World Political Ecology may give us useful tools for appreciating ambivalence and contradiction in local decision making processes , and I believe that this type of inquiry can give crucial insight into the nuanced socio economic and human dyn amics of land use transitions.

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27 But the essential ambivalence here really revolves around the question of royalty reinvestment. Royalties represent a large transfer of value from the energy industry to individual landowners, many of them farmers. Whatever farmers choose to invest in, it is ultimately oil money which allowed them to do so. What does it mean, then, if farmers purchase drones and moisture sensors, and install drip irrigation? Conversely, w hat does it mean that farmers may accept massive risks to agricultural resources in order to accrue the cash necessary to invest in their farm? This very complex of risk and opportunity is at the heart of my research . Is it possible that environmentally destructive practices can lead to environmental protection in other arenas? In other words, can ultimately bad things also be good things in other context s ? More specifically, is it possible that fracking, which undeniab ly pollutes our air and water, a lso contributes indirectly to agricultural water conservation and the financial sustainability of Colorado farms? At the end of the day, does energy extraction threaten our food system or does it support it? Is it possible t hat it does both simultaneously? How do we reconcile these unexpected, counter intuitive, and morally ambiguous outcomes? 35 Where do farmers themselves figure in all of this? This is the sort of ambivalence which will always exceed the ideological frames we use to understand environmental change . I think that w ith more thorough examination of the local mechanisms of land use change , a s well as of the underlying ambivalence of the ideologies surrounding environmental conflict s , these sorts of layered, contrad ictory processes will often emerge. 35 By my reading, it is not at all a moral defense of the oil and gas industry to wonder if some of its broader affects might be at the very least ambiguous.

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28 Relevance/ Justification : Royalties and Farm Investments As alluded to in the introduction , the influence of large supplementary cash flows from minerals on farmer decision making is not yet well understood. There is a surprising lack of systematic research on the socio economic effects of royalties to farmers in the academic literature, indica ting a possible knowledge gap regarding an increasingly important form of non farm income. This income may enable a variety of significant farm improvements, perhaps ultimately reshaping how food is produced in these places, yet there remains only speculat ion about the complex and shifting socio economic dynamics involved. As a result, it is still unclear how exactly cash from energy royalties are employed by farming households, leaving obscure the effects of energy development on the behavior of agricultu ral producers. Scholars have not thoroughly enough addressed the potential positive and negative effects that royalty payments can have on vulnerable farming livelihoods, failing to fully illuminate the meaning and significance of this energy revenue. Ther efore, this study establishes relevant areas of inquiry for a crucial but understudied question in agricultural economics and rural sociology, acting as a preliminary experiment in an effort to better understand the implications of energy development on fa rmland for agricultural production. Notably, anecdotal evidence from contemporary newspaper articles indicates that royalties may alleviate chronic socio economic vulnerability in the agricultural sector , and i t is quite possible that natural gas royalties could act as a financial safety net for farmers with otherwise fragile agricultural livelihoods. But beyond general financial resiliency, these anecdotes suggest that royalties may also give farmers the ability to invest in a variety of more specific area s major investments which they could never have made with farm revenues alone,

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29 such as college education, the construction or renovation of farm facilities, set asides for soil conservation, more efficient farm equipment, or even resource conservation/prec ision agriculture technologies. Due to the dependency on irrigation for production, water conservation is becoming a major priority for producers in Northern Colorado. Many conventional farmers have begun investing in soil moisture sensors to avoid over w atering, as well as more efficient irrigation and soil management techniques which maximize moisture retention and prevent excessive evaporation and runoff. This includes interest in precision agriculture technologies like drone based remote sensing to mon itor crop health and manage chemical inputs . While farmers have shown interest in precision technologies, their willingness to purchase such expensive equipment of course depends upon their financial security and ability to accrue surplus cash. Many farmer s connect this to the strength of commodity prices when prices are low, or when crops are lost to hail, they are unwilling and unable to prioritize precision technologies. Thus, royalties might make it financially possible for farmers to invest in expensiv e resource saving equipment in spite of lower commodity prices. Similarly, anecdotal evidence suggests that farmers often spend royalties and other excess cash on tuition for their children, and many have children who study agricultural production and res ource management at CSU and UNC (Simpson, 2015). These programs emphasize resource efficiency and adaptation to changing environmental conditions, often including geospatial technology applications and precision agriculture training. It can be argued that the technical education of the next generation of farmers is itself a long term investment in the sustainability

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30 In other words, royalty cash may directly and indirectly empower farmers to alter their farming practice s in order to enhance resource conservation and farm sustainability in the long term. This possibility would problematize overly simplistic critiques of fracking which suggest that energy extraction only jeopardizes agricultural resources and livelihoods. In spite of the risks to natural resources which hydraulic fracturing poses, energy extraction royalties could simultaneously (if inadvertently) contribute to more sustainable food production, as well as more financially resilient farming livelihoods. Yet for many farmers this promise and potential of energy royalties may turn out to be hollow, instead pulling them deeper into yet another set of volatile macro economic processes and further compromising their financial stability. The research must then con sider the ways in which royalties influence the credit cycle and the use of debt for farming households, and must simultaneously explore the possibility of increased financial vulnerability through inconsistent and unpredictable royalty payments. Most like ly, energy development is neither the great savior nor the eminent threat to the food system which opposing positions often presume. Still, understanding these investment dynamics is crucial to informed energy and agricultural policy. F urther investigation is necessary to explore the various possibilities, as well as the unique experiences of diverse farmers . In Colorado, as with elsewhere, farmers are primary stakeholders in energy development, and yet the perspectives of farmers are largely neglected in the lively debate on fracking. When arguing the costs and benefits of energy been given enough weight. This is not to say that farmers do not appear in the persuasive strategies of the debaters both the pro fracking and anti fracking propaganda has strategically

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31 utilized farmers as rhetorical tokens, attempting to connect their cause to the image of the pur e, virtuous, and idyllic American farmer. Both sides have in turn championed food production as an essential and righteous labor which must be defende d , but i n the process have obscured and ignored the complex experiences of real farmers. As such, the primary purpose of this study is to By my reading, it would be quite difficult to understand the tentative relationship between energy extraction and agricul ture without first consulting the stakeholders who negotiate that relationship every day . Farmers have unique and valuable access into the everyday operations of energy extraction and its effects on the local land / economy , and u ltimately th is problem effec t s ; m oreover, they often have the legal ability to pursue or prevent energy development on farmlan d . rationale when participating in energy development allows us to more fully compr ehend the local decision making mechanisms of the fracking boom . experiences with energy extraction and royalty receipt are quite diverse, and their stories can provide indispensable insight into how natural gas drilling may simultaneously support and endanger rural economies as it infuses new risks along with substantial capital. R epre senting the livelihoods of farmers who receive royalties can add meaningful context to our understanding of the complicated implications of energy extraction on Colorado farmland, and thus can potentially enhance the efficacy of our public discourse surrou nding the subject. opinions are tremendously important. More broadly, a n exploration of the unique socio economic circumstances in which different farmers are embedded provides a window into the complexity of contemporary rural

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32 life . Such an approach may illuminate the d ifficult and ambivalent situation s in which farming households often find themselves. Landowners may have legitimate concerns about potential contamination , safety risks , and the loss of the rural aesthetic associated with energy extraction, but financial insecurity, low commodity prices , and complex investment priorities could eventually lead them to signing leases and accepting the financial benefits of energy development. The massive uncertainties surrounding the se risks and rewards further complicate the decision making process. Such ambiguity creates genuinely difficult, complex trade offs must navigat e studying those trade offs choose to manage them can enhance our understanding of socio economic, environmental, and land use changes in rural areas.

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33 CHAPTER II SURVEY OF FARMING HOUSEHOLDS In order to explore the dynamics outlined in Chapter 1, a detailed survey of about 35 questions was sen t out to 500 randomly selected farmers/property owners in Weld County. This survey involved basic inquiries about mineral ownership, the use of royalty payments, and opinions on the effects of energy development (the survey can be viewed in its entirety in Appendix B) . Of the 500 surveys which were mailed out, we received 80 in return (a 16% response rate), but only 74 of which were viable (the other 6 were no longer farms). M ethodology Random Sampling/Participant Selection Potential participants were selected from a list of all parcels in Weld County designated This information was determined through a simple GIS analysis. Parcel data was downloaded as a polygon shapefile from the Weld County GIS Department website, which is freely available for public use; well locations/status data is available for download as a point shapefile at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) website. Parcels designated as A gricult ural were selected and exported, as were wells designated as Active or Drilling (as opposed to the tens of thousands of plugged and/or abandoned wells in the county , which do not produce royalty revenue ). Utilizing a basic spatial join , I used these select ions to further subset only the A gricultural parcels which had an A ctive well point in their boundaries. I then exported the result ing table as an Excel spreadsheet , the equivalent of a list of addresses in Weld County where farming and energy extraction overlap spatially (about 4500 parcels) . This list can be easily randomized

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34 in Excel by using the ()Rand function to generate random numbers between 0 and 1 for each row, and then sorting the rows top to bottom. The firs t 500 address became our participants to which we mailed a copy of the survey, as well as a stamped and addressed return envelope . Respondents also had the option of filling out the survey online (though none opted to do so). In spite of the difficulties of cold mailing potential participants, we decided this was a reasonable method for 2 reasons: 1) it is simpler and less time consuming than attempting to build brand new networks to connect to participants, and given our very real limitations of time and resources to complete the project, we decided we would actually contact more potential participants through a random sample than a network of acquaintances, and 2) we thought it was important that the sample was truly random. W hile Dr. Weaver had previously done interview work in this area and maintained contacts there which we could have used to build a network, we wondered if some of these individuals were politically inclined or socio economically homogenous in a way that cou ld distort our results through the classic snowball effect. In order to preserve the integrity and relative objectivity of our survey results, we opted for a random selection process. That being said, the process was not strictly random, insofar as I man ually filtered out parcels that were quite evidently owned by non agricultural entities, such as energy extraction companies or land trusts. While these participants may have had interesting and insightful contributions, and while they may have maintained some sort of agricultural land use on their parcel, this research really focuses on farming businesses and households. In order to maximize our relevant response rate, I removed non agricultural owners from the list and replaced them with addresses who had

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35 more likely to be of our target audience. Nonetheless, the fact that so many parcels which were designated as Agricultural were in actuality owned by non agricultural entities is an im portant insight in its own right these implications are explored in the Results section below. The survey specifically target s landowners who continue to actively farm in high density extraction areas land no longer under cultivation was not considered re levant for our purposes , as those royalties are presumably not invested in farming . Hence the survey asks participants whose land is not cultivated to disregard. Initially we had also planned to survey only those farmers who possess subsurface mineral resources and receive significant reve nue as royalties. But upon realizing that the distribution of mineral ownership in Weld County is not well studied, we decided that the survey could be used to approximate the proportion of mineral ownership in farming communities (an essential bit of information for understanding the effect or lack of effect of royalties for farming businesses). Moreover, we came to understand that the experiences of farmers who do not own their minerals are both interesting and import ant, as farmers without rights are subject to many of the same environmental risks/inconveniences but without the negotiating privileges or financial benefit. Indeed, this potential inequality and conflict became a significant component of the research. S urvey Design and Rationale The survey is designed as a detailed qualitative questionnaire that highlights the approximate the potential influence of royalties on investment decisions , based entirely qualitative descriptions of their personal experiences and decision making rationale in the context of oil and gas royalties. The survey asks them to list items they have invested in using

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36 royalty cash, but does not ask for any concrete details on the dates or amounts of these expenses. Thus , the data collection primarily concerned participants perception of royalties and extraction rather than an analysis of quantifiable financial, legal, or environmental dynamics. In order to enhance qualitative information, the survey contains many opportunities for write ins where the respondent can clarify and elaborate on their responses (most questions are opinion) . Though some participants neglected to expand upon their positions, many gave extremely thorough and even impassioned responses we were pleasantly surprised by the density of quali tative information contained in the write in questions. Often these took the form of generalized stories of their personal experiences, ranging from irrigation and tractor purchases to problems with company traffic to sending children to college and even p ersonal conflicts amongst landowners. Initially, I had planned to conduct 5 10 semi structured interviews to provide m ore detailed personal context for the surveys, as well as to enhance the human elements of the research. However, due to the detail, quality, and voice of the survey write in responses (as well as other practical constraints), we decide to construct our analysis from the survey data alone. Th e survey design in part f ollow s from the political ecology inspira tion described in Chapter 1, which emphasize s humanistic investigations into local experience rather than objective , data oriented analysis . Although political ecology work is often more genuinely ethnographic, involving intensive fieldwork and participant observation, the philosophy of accentuating idiosyncratic local experiences can nonetheless be applied to survey design. In this sense, the research is designed to

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37 than to deduce any empirical truth about the financial dynamics involved. While there are practical limitations to this approach, such qualitative data can nonetheless give fresh and critical insights into these land use and socio economic phenomena. I also elected not to attempt to quanti fy the dollar amounts received or spent in relation to royalties because this could be considered sensitive information ; potential participants may have be en reluctant to share private financial details, especially when it involves a controversial i ndustry (by my reading, being asked how much money one receives from the oil and gas company by a total stranger is bound to make many people uncomfortable and uncertain). Based we anticipated that some farmers may be inherently skeptical of a University of Colorado survey on energy development and thus may be unwilling to participate in a survey that requested too much personal information. This assumption was in part confirmed b y survey respondents who opted not to answer even general questions about their finances, stating that such information was (h owever, many others were quite forthcoming with details regarding their business, and were not at all concerned about an onymity ) . Similarly, we did not include questions regarding demographic information in the survey in order to avoid any perceived invasions of privacy , and hence the survey is entirely anonymous unless a participant opted to identify themselves. Because o f these concerns, we decided that potential participants would be more receptive if we simply asked them for their stories and opinions rather than to disclose their tax return s or expense receipts . Further, m ost demographic information was not immediately relevant to our essential research question anyways (although knowing the age and gender of

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38 respondents could provide very interesting context, it was not necessary to answer our central inquiry). Moreover, as explained above, because we intended to empha experiences rather than quantifiable economic behavior, this type of financial and demographic data was not crucial for our research objectives to begin with . Relatedly, w e also worked hard to maintain an unbiased tone throughout th e introductory letter as well as the survey (such as ensuring the survey questions did not suggest that hydraulic fracturing definitely pollutes natural resources, for example). Energy development and p articularly the use of hydraulic fracturing is a contentious and politically fraught topic in much of Northern Colorado , and it was important that surveyed farmers did not perceive our research as in any way ideologically antagonistic to their interests. Or put another way, this research is premised upon a fairly straightforward inquiry , and while skeptical, it is not necessarily antagonistic to energy development in principle. It was important that we communicated this largely neutral stance o n energy development itself in order to build rapport and maxi mize farmer participation. If individuals thought we intended to use their stories to criticize a practice that the y ultimately agree with ( and benefit from ) , they may be less likely to participate. Instead, are vitally important and undervalued, These are all examples of the sort of ideological realities we had to navigate in designing our survey .

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39 Survey Results: Graphs and Tables General Question s Figure 1. Survey responses regarding cultivation and farm leasing. Figure 2. Survey responses regarding crop s cultivated.

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40 Figure 3. Survey responses regarding trends in farm commodity prices. Figure 4. Survey responses regarding mineral ownership. Table 1. Compares mineral ownership to leasing rates as can be seen, non farming landlords are more likely to also own mineral rights. Do you own the mineral rights to your land and receive royalties from the extraction company? Yes No Total Farmer 32 14 46 Lessor 22 6 28 Total 54 20 74

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41 Mineral Owners________________________________________________________________ Figure 5 . Survey responses regarding royalties and changes in farm finances. Would you say that royalties have significantly affected your finances as a farming business? Have royalties helped buffer you financially from low prices? Yes No Not sure Total Yes Sort of No Total Farmer 25 7 0 32 25 4 3 32 Le ssor 10 8 4 22 13 3 4 20 Total 35 15 4 54 38 7 7 52 Table 2. B reaks down responses according to whether the mineral owner farms or leases the land. This is important because non farming mineral owners will have different perspectives on agriculture than farmers. Figure 6 . Survey responses regarding fluctuations in royalty payment amounts.

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42 Figure 7 . Survey responses regarding farm expenditures using royalty cash. What things have you spent your money from energy royalties on? Equip. Struct. Irrig. Tuition Savings Debt Leisure Other Tot. Farmer 21 19 19 9 15 18 13 1 31 Le ssor 7 8 4 3 7 9 4 5 21 Total 28 27 23 12 22 27 17 6 52 Table 3. Breaks down investment decisions by farmer/le sso r. Notice how non farmers still invest in production.

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43 Figure 8 . Survey responses regarding the use of credit for farm purchases. Figure 9 . Survey responses regarding the use of precision tech on their farm. Table 4. Separates experience and opinions on precision tech by farmer/lessor . Have you ever used technology? Do royalties make precision tech. more affordable? Yes Very little No Total Yes Maybe No Total Farmer 16 0 16 32 16 12 4 32 Lessor 5 0 16 21 13 7 1 21 Total 21 0 32 53 29 19 5 53

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44 Figure 10. Survey responses regarding familiarity with precision tech. Figure 11. Survey responses regarding interest in precision tech. Figure 12. Survey responses regarding royalties and affordability of precision tech.

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45 Figure 15. Survey responses regarding royalties and the affordability of college.

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46 Figure 16. Survey responses regarding royalties and poor commodity markets. Figure 17. Survey responses regarding changes in farming practices. Has your farming practice changed since the wells were established? Yes Sort of No Total Farmer 22 1 9 32 Lessor 4 0 17 21 Total 26 1 26 53 Table 5 . Changes in farming practices broken down by farmer/lessor. Clearly the majority of farmers have modified their farming practices due to the wells/royalties.

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47 Figure 18. Survey responses regarding soil decision making and fallow. Figure 19. Survey responses regarding contamination risk from fracking wells. Table 6. Compares opinions on risk by mineral ownership. Do the wells on your land pose any risk to your business? Yes Maybe No Not sure Tot al Mineral Owner 5 8 38 2 53 Non mineral Owner 7 2 9 2 2 0 Total 1 2 1 0 47 4 73

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48 Is hydraulic fracturing or fracking a serious risk to agricultural resources? Do the wells on your land pose any risk to your business? Yes Maybe No Not sure Total Yes Maybe No Not sure Total Farmer 2 4 23 3 32 1 6 24 1 32 Lessor 3 3 15 0 21 4 2 14 1 21 Total 5 7 38 3 53 5 8 38 2 53 Table 7. Separates perspectives on risk according to farmer/lessor. Figure 20. Survey responses regarding general risk to the farming business from wells. Figure 21. Survey responses regarding negative impacts to farmland from wells.

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49 Mineral Owners : Has energy development negatively impacted your land? Non Mineral Owners: Has energy development negatively impacted your land? Yes Not sure No Total Yes Not sure No Total Farmer 9 2 21 32 12 1 6 19 Lessor 2 1 18 21 4 1 6 11 Total 11 3 39 53 16 2 12 30 Table 8 . This table illustrates that non mineral owners, particularly non mineral owning farmers, were significantly more likely to report negative impacts from energy development. Figure 22 . Survey responses regarding tension between mineral and non mineral owners. Figure 2 3. Survey responses regarding information sources for contamination risk

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50 Non mineral O wners ____________________________________________________________ Figure 24 . Survey responses regarding the possession of a surface use agreement. Figure 25 . Survey responses regarding stipulations of the ir surface use agreement.

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51 Figure 26. Survey responses regarding negative impacts to farmland from wells. Figure 27. Survey responses regarding any positive impacts to farm from the wells. Has energy development negatively impacted your business? Has energy development positively impacted your business? Yes Not sure No Total Yes Not sure No Total Farmed 12 1 6 19 8 5 8 21 Leased 4 1 6 11 6 1 4 11 Total 16 2 12 30 14 6 12 32 Table 9. Separates non mineral owners perspectives on risk by farmer/lessor

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52 Figure 2 8 . Survey responses regarding risk to farmland from wells. Figure 2 9 . Survey responses regarding risk of contamination from hydraulic fracturing. Figure 30 . Survey responses regarding positive implications of energy extraction more generally.

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53 Figure 31 . Survey responses regarding tensions between ownership groups. Figure 32 . Survey responses regarding the role of royalties in their perspective on ener gy extraction.

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54 CHAPTER II I THEMES AND INTERPRETATIONS This section outlines the major themes which emerge from the survey responses presented above. The themes are broken into 4 main categories: Surface and Subsurface Tenure, Royalties and Farm Finances, Environmental Impacts and Farming Practices , and Mineral Ownership and Inequalities in Decision making/Positive Impacts . These interpretations are often somewhat speculative, as our small sample size and limited questionnaire can give only preliminary insight into the broader farmer experience in Weld. Nonetheless, 75 people is not an insignificant sample of experiences, and many of our interpretations are corroborated by contextual research, such as data from the USDA Census o f Agriculture and anecdotes from regional journalism . Each subsection will refer to the questions/tables from which the interpretations were derived for reference. Surface and Subsurface Tenure Because of how mineral rights are legally defined, t he ques tion of tenure is pivotal to all other dynamics surrounding energy extraction on farmland. As explained in the Context section (as well as the section on the relevance of political ecology) of Chapter 1, mineral owners have greater decision making power an d receive immense personal benefit from extraction, whereas non mineral owners must tolerate damages and risks with little personal gain. But another important component of tenure is surface leasing we know that many agricultural parcels in Weld are farmed by a tenant, but the actual surface (and often subsurface) rights belong to a non farming landlord. This of course has implications for investment choices and the application of

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55 r oyalty cash to agricultural production. Hence, the general problem of legal ownership is absolutely crucial to the local political and financial dynamics of energy extraction. Mineral ownership If the guiding question of this research is whether or not en ergy royalties significantly actual mineral ownership in the region. Because farmers can only benefit from royalties if they own mineral rights, any claim that energy development directly support s the agricultural economy necessarily assumes that most farmers are also mineral owners. However, this is not necessarily true; indeed, the distribution of mineral rights in Weld and elsewhere in the West is not very we ll understood. It is difficult to determine how many parcels in Weld County are split estates because tenure information is organized by individual chain of title and not compiled in a way that allows for systematic comparison of surface vs. subsurface ow nership across the entire county . Oil and gas companies have their own property consultants which locate the relevant surface and mineral rights for individual parcels of interest, but do not compile this info into a public database. 36 Further, Weld County only records names and addresses for mineral claims which are both undeveloped and already severed once a mineral claim is developed, the owner is listed in a as the well operat ing company rather than the actual mineral owner ( the operator then collects the taxes from the owner for the county ) . 37 36 EPA Region 8 Energy Advisor, Personal Correspondence. 37 Weld County Assessor, Personal Correspondence .

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56 If we had a list of all mineral owners, we could use their addresses to approximate how many are split estate situations, but no such list for Wel d County exists (in fact, this means we do not even know the total number of mineral claims in Weld County!). As a result, we have no large scale data on how many farmers own their mineral rights , making it nearly impossible to make general statements abou t the effects of royalty payments on farming businesses. Th e survey attempts to address this considerable knowledge gap by estimat ing mineral ownership by farmers in Weld. There is reason to believe that a substantial number mineral rights in Weld are owned by parties other than the farmer/ surface owner. For one, we were able to loosely estimate split estates by comparing t he listed with the COGCC well location data to the name of the parcel owner in the Weld County parcel data. To do this, I created a simple Python/ArcPy script that joins the parcel name info to each well point and then automatically calls and compares the Well Title to the Parcel Name. 38 Because Well Titles and Parcel owners are 38 The script is as follows: import arcpy arcpy.env.workspace = r 'F: \ flash_backup_Dec17 \ Thesis Proposal \ GIS Data' arcpy.env.overwriteOutput = 1 arcpy.SpatialJoin_analysis( 'wells_selection.shp' , 'parcels.shp' , 'Join_Title.shp' ) fields = [ 'Well_Name' , 'NAME' , 'shape@' ] scur = arcpy.da.SearchCursor( 'Join_Title.shp' ,fields) arcpy.CreateFeatureclass_management(arcpy.env.workspace, 'Non_split.shp' , "point" ) arcpy.AddField_management( 'Non_split.shp' , 'Well_Name' , 'STRING' ) arcpy.AddField_management( 'Non_split.shp' , 'NAME' , 'STRING' ) fields2 = [ 'Well_Name' , 'NAME' , 'shape@' ] icur = arcpy.da.InsertCursor( 'Non_split.shp' ,fields2) for row in scur: z = row[0].upper( ).split() for x in z: if x in row[1]: icur.insertRow([row[0],row[1],row[2]]) arcpy.DeleteIdentical_management ( 'Non_split.shp' , 'shape@' )

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57 d ocumented slightly differently even when the owner is the same (parcel names are often full names whereas the well title is only the last name), I had to process the fields first, making sure they are all in the same case and then splitting them to compa re substrings. This splitting created some duplicates because the substring s matched twice for what was really the same entry; these duplicates are removed at the end using the Delete Identical geoprocessing tool. From this analysis, we found that about 5 3 % of wells have a title that differs from the name of the surface owner, indicating widespread split estates. However, this is only a proxy and cannot be considered completely accurat e: we are only comparing names, but it is very possible that parcel In this scenario my script would count them as different even though they are indeed the same person (and thus not split estates) , perhaps then overestimating the total amount of split estates. Unfortunately, there is no way around this using th e data we have available . Secondly , the list of severed/undeveloped mineral claims contains almost 1700 claims that are owned by people who do not reside in Weld County, much le ss in Colorado, and a sizable proportion of these rights are owned directly by Anadarko Land Corporation (a major oil and gas operator in the region). While this is only a very small sample of mineral claims, it does show that a significant amount of undev eloped split estates do exist and may indicate the existence of many more which have already been developed. It also suggests that oil and gas companies themselves often purchase and accumulate mineral rights, severing them from the agricultural surface us e. I t also appears that i n some areas of the county the railroads continue to own a large majority of the mineral rights, as they were the original land owner and kept the minerals as

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58 assets after they sold the surface rights for cash (t his situation is recounted by 5 non mineral owners ) . One farmer describes owning 320 acres of farmland, but Union Pacific ground and we [only] get a surface owners share , rights, but every other section is a rai lroad section established in 1860 and Union Pacific owns This represents a fascinating historical legacy, as this company land is an artifact of massive federal land grants given to railroads during the late r 19 th century . Moreover, Weld C ounty itself owns about 40,000 acres of mineral rights, but does not own all of the corresponding surface acres which are owned and sometimes farmed by private individuals. This illustrates that many mineral rights are retained by large historical entities . Lastly , some survey respondents directly assert that split estates are very common in their area sold before I bought the One v ery few farmers own full mineral rights anymore people retire and/or sell their land b ut retain their mineral claims. However, other components of the survey reveal a more complicated reality. To begin with, i n the survey only 27 % of parcels ( 20 of 74 do not own minerals, and 54 do ) are split estates (Question 5) . While this is indeed a very small sample, it was unexpected that so many respondents would be dual owners who maintain their mineral rights. Although there is no way to verify if this percentage is at all representative of the entire county (or state/region, for that matter) , it may indicate that split estates are less common than we thought and that the majority of surface owners do receive royalties . Yet only 32 of those 54 mineral owners are actually

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59 engaged in farming themselves, the others being landlords who may not choos e to invest in agriculture (see Farm leasing section below). Certain nuances about the nature of mineral ownership also came through in the surveys which problematize our definitions of mineral vs. non mineral owners. For one, it appears relatively common for someone to own multiple parcels, some where they own minerals and others where they do not in the survey, 16 % of respondents both own and do not mineral rights on various parcels (or 12 out of 74 , Question 5 ). As these farmers recount, w e own 1 5,000 acres between Berthoud and Perkins County Nebraska, and some properties we own minerals and others we don't , and similarly, t he 3 parcels we now own all came with different mineral These farmers tend to have unique insights into the experiences of both mineral and non mineral owners, though they also tend to have a more positive bias towards energy development than those with no mineral rights whatsoever . In any case, such experience s exemplify that mineral owners are sometimes also non mineral owners for other parcels, and that ownership situations are complicated and often unique to individual farmers . These and other respondents quoted above also allude to the fact that mineral ri ghts can be subdivided and partially owned , with various owners receiving their share of the royalty. Hence , although someone may be a mineral owner, this does not necessarily mean that they own 100% of the claim. Some respondents explain that they only o wn a very small percentage , and although they are technically a royalty receiving mineral owner they do not receive the full financial benefit as do other mineral owners. Unfortunately, the survey does not ask the respondent to specify their proportion of ownership, so this dynamic is not well recorded by our data . T his may be a major oversight and flaw in the research , as partial owners should not be

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60 treated the same as full owners . N onetheless, this data shows that the stipulations of mineral ownership and royalty receipt can vary significantly, again making it difficult to connect mineral ownership to a specific estimate of cash flow to farms. If indeed few farmers are full mineral owners anymore , as the quotation above suggests, the amount of money th at goes to even mineral owning farmers may be less than previously thought. Furthermore, some respondents who do not own mineral rights still receive direct payments as part of their surface use agreement (Question 36) . We initially though t that non mineral owners did not receive any cash payments, as all royalty value from the minerals go to the owner. However, it seems that the details of surface use agreements can vary considerably, and that many do involve periodic or upfront cash payments in exchange for surface use, access points, and minor damage s (concessions to surface owners also probably vary from company to company, as some companies are willing to pay out in order to keep the surface owners happy, while others may take advantage and ma ximize their own revenue instead ). A full 2 / 3 rds of non ( 19 of 30 respondents). One respondent tells how s urface agreements money has been beneficial, the small monthly check is nice . Others are sure to emphasize that just because they are not a mineral owner does not necessarily mean they receive no cash from the operator (as the phrasing of Question 5 in the survey implies). Therefore, l andowners who are technically non mineral owners for some parcels may nonetheless receive direct financial benefit s from energy development and in turn be able to reinvest oil and gas money in their farming operations . Due to these more nuanced scenarios , it seems that str ictly dividing between mineral owning farmers (who receive cash and can invest in their farm) and non mineral owning farmers

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61 (who do not receive cash and thus cannot invest in their farm) is not always an appropriate way to conceptualize subsurface tenure relations in Weld . Farm leasing Another complex tenure problem is farm leasing, or the renting out of farmland to an independent farmer by a non farming landowner. As documented by the Census of Agriculture, this practice is very common in the US, and almost 40% of all agricultural parce ls in Weld County are rented out. As such, in the survey we have 4 primary categories: farming owner operators with mineral rights, non farming landlords with mineral rights, farming owner operators without mineral rights, and non farming landlords without mineral rights . Th ese distinction s are significant because the survey primarily targets farmers and explores their decision making process, and non farming landlords will usually not have the same experience and insights into the farming business on their land. Many of the surveys were taken by landowners who lease land rather than by farmers themselves , so t hese responses must be parsed out and treated separately as landlords may have very different perspectives on energy and agriculture than an actual fa rmer. The survey identified 46 farming landowners (64%) and 28 non farming landowners or lessors (36%) , corroborating the idea that farm leasing is common in Weld. Of those 46 landowners who also farm, 32 are mineral owners and 14 are not; of landlords, 22 are mineral owners and only 6 are not (this implies that non farming landlords may be slightly more likely to own minerals than farmers, but the sample size is far too small to even speculate). Put differently, 59% of mineral owners are farmers and 41% are landlords. Notably, some landowners do farm but also lease land to others to farm, suggesting that the landlord/landowner

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62 distinction may be misleading (similar to the mineral/non mineral owner), though no more than 5 respondents reported this status. In total, 43 % of respondents are farming mineral owners and thus may be in a position to invest royalty cash in agriculture (32 out of 74) . For t he other 57 % which are either not mineral owners or not farmers , the royalty cash from drilling on farmland is likely not being reinvested in that farmland . The fact that 1/3 rd of surveyed farmers (14/46) do not own their minerals also means that the royalty money from farmland is probably going elsewhere. These results indicate that royalty cash may not always make it into the agricultural economy even though extraction is taking place on active farmland. The fact that a full 40 % of mineral owners on agricultural parcels (22/54) are not themselves engaged i n farming is discouraging, as it implies that this valuable royalty money is often not being re invest ed in crop production at all The farmer himself, who would make equipment decisions like precision tech or more efficient irrigation, doesn't actually see any of that royalty money and so couldn't make conservation investments even if they wanted to. Many royalties go to a non producing landowner who may be less interested in production efficiencies or reso urce conservatio n. A s one non farming landlord explains when my farm . Th ese landlord s do not feel responsible for enhancing production ( nor for that matter do they wonder how the tenants are expected to generate the surplus to make suc h investments without supplemental income like royalties ) .

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63 To conclude , the surface and subsurface tenure situation in Weld County is complex and full of uncertainties. Though ownership dynamics are extremely important for estimating the financial effect s of royalties on farming businesses, we were unable to definitively determine any trends in mineral ownership by farmers . Even so, these insights expose critical nuances and may provide an important foundation for future inquiries regarding royalties and the agricultural economy. Moreover, there is reason to believe that a substantial proportion of royalty revenue make it into the hands of farm business es people who could use that money to enhance their production opera tion , conserve water and soil, and improve the financial sustainability of smaller farms . Chronology It should be noted that the majority of respondents described wells that were much older than we had anticipated. M ost in the last 10 years. Initially, we thought we were simply mistaken to believe that most wells in the area were relatively young, as there has been widespread oil extraction in this region for over 100 years. But g iven that drilling has in fact expanded dramatically in the last 10 15 years, predominantly due to fracking technology, these respo nses remain somewhat curious. Upon further reflection, it is quite possible that many people were reporting the dates of their first wells, and not necessarily noting newer wells which have been established since. For one, it is very unlikely that wells drilled almost 40 years ago would still be producing large royalties , so the respondents who receive considerable royalties probably have younger wells in addition to their first wells. Moreover, many people specifically mention various impacts

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64 associated with drilling (some refer to active drilling itself), and therefore probably have wells that were drilled in recent memory. Finally , the phrasing of the survey question was ambiguous and probably led respondents to report the date of initial drilling only When were the oil/natural gas wells on your land first drilled? In hindsight, it would have been useful to ask each respondent how many wells they have, what types, and the drilling dates of each in order to better understand the temp oral sequencing of energy development on these farms. Even still, a majority of people report first beginning to receive royalties over 25 years ago. W e mistakenly assume d most landowners have only recently been engaged with energy development on the contrary, many of these farmers have been receiving royalties for decades. This modifies the nature of the inquiry a bit, because we initially conceptualized royalty reinvestme nt in Weld as more of a contemporary problem directly tied to the fracking boom. While it may still be largely contemporary (due to the addition of tens of thousands of new unconventional wells), many landowners have had experience with the financial and e nvironmental effects of energy extraction for much longer. In this sense, the relationship between energy royalties and farming livelihoods has deeper historical roots than we thought. Royalties and Farm Finances round the net financial effects of energy royalties on farm businesses , speculating that royalty cash may increase the financial sustainability and potential capital investment s of mid sized farms. This section describes

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65 insights concerning increased revenue, decreased financial vulnerability, diversified investment choices, commodity prices, for both agricultural and energy commoditie s. It is important to note that contracts between mineral owners and well operators are all individually negotiated, and one cannot generalize the terms or the exact royalty rate. These agreements also depend on geologic factors like the volume, quality, and depth of the reservoir. In addition, certain mineral claims are simply more productive, so it is difficult to estimate the average value of actual royalties in Weld. In this sense, it is important to recognize that some of the variation in farmer exper ience is a product of these variations in mineral resources and operator contracts/royalty rates. Such diversity makes it difficult to generally assess the financial implications of royalty payments. Financial v ulnerability An essential motivation of this research was to examine the ability of royalties to keep farms in business. Given the potential commodity prices and crop damage, and decreasing returns due to chronically low prices, is it possible that royalties help a significant number of farms stay afloat? This is of course a common claim, but little empirical evidence has been presented. In this case, a majority of respondents Q uestions 7, 8, and 2 3 ). 25 of 32 farmi ng mineral owners say that royalties do protect them from low commodity prices. Many mineral owning farmers emphatically described the dramatic effects of royalty cash on their business , with some even explicitly claiming that royalties are the only reason

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66 noted that investments in new equipment significantly increased productivity and profitability (which is elaborated upon in the Farm Investments section below ) . This positive financial influence is more vividly illustrated through the write in anecdotes. all been used to keep the farm that he property damage and royalty checks have helped with our operating expenses. Some frankly state that , while another respondent goes so far as to rming the land even if it isn t making any reduce financial risk This farmer portrays royalties as a form of crop insurance: In years of crop failures, the money from oil and gas helps owners to not lose the farm. All of this suggests that these farmers very much depend on royalties for their financial health , especially in times of declining farm income . A few farmers had more unique perspectives on the role of royalties. This farmer views royalties as a sort of ideological anti government tool , using royalties in place of federal crop insurance and subsidies : oil and gas has enabled me to keep operating the farm without signing up for any government programs. I refuse to sign up for government Another instead emphasizes the effects of royalties on their quality of life , noting how the extra cash reduc The extra income has

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67 made farming enjoyable again. Everything is easier now. This farmer similarly tells how the Regard less of their personal take, a significant number of farmer s surveyed claim that royalties absolutely help keep them in business and protect them from low commodity prices. The seven mineral owning farmers who responded that royalties have not affected th eir business tell a very different story. It is probable that these farmers have fewer/less productive wells and simply do not receive as much royalty cash. It is also possible that their farms are structured differently, in the sense that their businesses are too large (or in a more nuanced scenario, too small) to be dramatically affected by the relatively modest cash payments. Moreover, some of these farmers probably do not farm as the primary occupation, operating a small hobby farm but relying on other sources for the majority of their income. As this farmer sideline. I m retired and he has a full time job. We each receive any royalties 50/50. My father died in 2010 , but I m sure they helped him. Since my brother and I have raised corn on the small farm , Still, these minority farmers experiences offer a meaningful counterpoint to the idea that energy development absolutely benefits all farmers , as even these mineral owning farmers say that royalties have not really affected their business and do not protect them from low commodity prices. The primary reason these farmers say that royalties have not helped them fi nancially is that the royalty checks are un predictable, stating that s ome years royalties were really great, other years they had very little effect. This is due more to oil and gas prices than to When asked if royalties have signi ficantly affected their business, one

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68 i t s hard to say...You can t rely on them. This dynamic is explored at length in the following section. In conclusion, b ecause of the financial vulnerability that many small medium sized farms must navigate, their options are seriously constrained when oil or gas reserves are discovered beneath their land. If most farmers depend on income outside of their farming operation in order to survive , royalties have likely become an indispensable portion of many farm budgets in Weld . Given the circumstances of low/unpredictable prices and diminishing returns on harvested crops, it is almost impossible for these farmers to forgo the financial benefits of energy extraction even if they have concerns about spills and other impacts to their farmland. In this sense, the broader context of farm finances is instrumental to understanding why farmers choose to participate in energy development in spite of the r isks. Commodity p rices and f luc t uating r oyalty p ayments In addition to asking if royalties have protected farmers from low commodity prices, we also asked all respondents about their experience with the state of agricultural commodity prices in general (Question 4) . A substantial 74 % of respondents said that prices have been unreliable over the last 5 years, with 33.8 % describing prices as Low and another 41.5 % saying they are A Interestingly, not all of these farmers participate in the same commodity markets, suggesting that there ha ve been poor prices for a variety of different comm odities , including corn, alfalfa, and wheat, as well as perhaps less common crops like sugar beets. This confirms that low prices and vola tile commodity markets are indeed a problem for

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69 Weld County farmers, and reiterates the quotations in the previous section which highlight the importance of royalties in times of market decline. However, as the more skeptical farmers quoted above have not ed, it is important to acknowledge the equal instability of the natural gas market and thus of the fluctuations in the value of the royalties which farmers receive. Royalties are ultimately a percentage of the value produced by the well, so when energy pri ces drop, so do royalty payments. Because energy consistent or predictable. The new unconventional gas market has already proven to be quite volatile , and prices fo r natural gas have plummeted in the last 3 4 years due to massive overproduction and international competition (in this sense, low prices are just as much a problem for energy markets as agricultural markets). Mineral owners unanimously responded that the amount of money the y receive in royalties fluctuates, with 53 % stating that payments 40 % answer ing 7 % or 3 respondents answering (Question 10). This suggests that royalties may not be a reliable form of supplemental income. Moreover , as wells age, production steadily begins to decline and thus royalty payments decline as well in many cases, after only 5 years the well is producing a mere fraction of the initial annual payments of up to $200,000. Although the initial productivity and the rate of decline will vary significantly depending on the type of well and the quality of the reserve , one can usually expect production to decline dramatically ove r the first 5 10 years. Because the first year of production often creates staggeringly large monthly payments ( sometimes tens of thousands of dollars), some mineral owners may overestimate the value of their minerals. One

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70 farmer describes how in his exper ience, people receive b ig checks upfront, then they decline quickly . Hence, royalties are probably not a long term solution to financial instability for farming households. For these reasons, farmers receiving royalties may simply trade one form of vulnerability for another. B ecause the cash flow from royalties can fluctuate dramatically with the energy market, it may leave farmers who depend on royalties equally vulnerable a s before. In this sense, the socio economic benefits of royalties could be somewhat of a false promise, but further research is of course necessary to elaborate upon this possibility. Cash and d ebt Initially, we wondered if the large additional cash flow might encourage larger and riskier investments, in particular debt funded purchases or business endeavors. If farming households pursue major investments using of their royalty cash , especially purchases made on credit such as heavy equipment, new structur es, or college education, what happens when prices drop or production declines? I t is p ossible that farmers could find themselves in financial trouble if the cash flow they use to pay th eir bills var ies or decline s as the energy market changes ; t his could lead to possible default, the accrual of large debts and interest payments, and increased financial instability. This certainly happens to mineral owners in Weld a have seen way too many people buy based on the first check As it turns out, a lot of Weld County farmers are more risk / debt averse, and likely understood that their royalty payments would be inconsistent. Interestingly, it appears that the strong majority of surveyed farmers chose to make additional purchases only with cash from

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71 directly from royalty checks rather than purchasing equipment on credit and increasing their debt burden. 60 % of farmers report that they made large purchases using c ash alone, and 28 % report using both cash a nd some credit (Question 12) . Further, respondents who claim to have sent their children through college using royalty payments implied that their tuition was entirely paid for out of pocket with no long term debt accrual. Therefore, we should not assume that farmers will use royalty payments to make immediate large purchases and increase their debts, as many farmers appear to prefer using cash savings to make large purchases outright. In fact, most farmers surveyed conversely use their royalties to pay of f existing debts . Farmer s could also use royalties to avoid further debt accrual because the need for upfront cash is an unavoidable seasonal reality (to pay initial overhead costs for seeds, fuel, fertilizer, and other inputs), royalties may actually decrease . Farm investments Which leads us to our central question: g iven this additional cash flow, what sorts of investments did farmers choose to make? While there was substantial diversity in reported investment choices, there were also some distinct patterns (Question 11) . Altogether, respondents communicate that royalties most definitely increase their capacity for farm investments, including equipment, structures, irrigation, savings, and debt repayment (although the ability to invest of course depends how m any wells you have/how much money you receive, amounts which can vary considerably). One respondent goes so far as to suggest that the positive financial impact of royalties is evidently visible on the agricultural landscape: when asked if energy developme nt is good for farming communities in Colorado, he responds that all one need do is

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72 drive east out of Weld County to see the [improved] condition of farm equipment and structures. To begin, i n some of the prec e ding paragraphs as well as in the tables pr esented in the Graphs and Tables section , we have s trategically differentia ted the responses according to whether the respondent is themselves a farmer or merely leases their land to another who cultivates it. subsection above assumes that non farming landlords will not invest in production , and hence these individuals need to be considered separately . However, Table 3 illustrates how many landlords nonetheless do invest in farm infrastructure, with 8 out of 21 reporting that they spent royalty cash on farm equipment and structures, and 4 purchasing irrigation equipment. It is possible that the landlord still has financial stake in the productivity of the land, perhaps for tax category purposes or because the val ue of the land is bolstered by fertility/farmabilit y, as more efficient production creates higher revenue and increases the value of the lease. But m ore directly , write ins revealed that some lessors are also actively farming, but they rent out portions of their land to others as well. Moreover, elderly , retired farmers who can longer farm and are leasing their own farm to another business . T hese people probably still have some financial interests in production, but more importantly they might maintain a cultural and ethical commitment to h , as well as values which leave them invested in agricultural livelihoods more generally . This is of course specul ation, but we can nonetheless reasonably assume that the decision making behavior of a former operator landlord will be quite different from a landlord who has never farmed at all, much less farmed this particular plot for decades . It is likely these forme r operators who decide d

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73 to invest their royalty cash in equipment and infrastructure which their le s se e can use to enhance production and resource management , even though they no longer farm themselves . R egardless of the reasoning (and scenarios are undou btedly diverse) , this data suggests that one should never assume a landlord will not use royalty cash to invest in farm equipment , and that the division between owner operators and owner non operators can be fuzzy . Accordingly, in this section we have incl uded the total responses including lessors, as well as the responses of active farmers (owner operators) only . Table 3 is also useful reference for this dynamic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two most popular selections were Farm Equipment ( 28/5 2 (total) 21/31 (farmers only ) ) and Farm Structures ( 27/5 2 19/31 ) . A ffirming the cliché, it seems a lot of mineral owning farmers went ahead and bought themselves a shiny new tractor. This is an obvious priority, as new equipment can dramatically reduce their own ti me/labor and increase efficiency and output on the farm. Many farmers were likely working with outdated equipment but struggled to accrue the surplus c a sh necessary for a major equipment purchase . Similarly, structures can be a major investment and require large surplus cash. Structures create new space for storage and miscellaneous work and can enhance the labor process; they also degrade and can become a problem for the business if not properly maintained. This category new homes for themselves. Royalties provide the surplus cash necessary to enhance efficiency through such investments, especially when prices are low or crops are lost and surplus is impossible. ignificant impact llowed equipment purchases and improvements states that w e have been able to do many improvements to the farm, improving and adding farm

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74 structures. keep better equipment , which Another common selection was D ebt R epayment ( 27/5 2 18/31 ). Farmers are often indebted due to the need for seasonal credit and the difficulty of generating surplus cash, as there is only one or two annual harves ts that must provide cash income for the entire year. Hence, paying debts is a primary expenditure when surplus cash does become available (although 13/31 farmers did not repay debt with royalty cash, perhaps implying that they had no mortgage and fewer de bts ) . It appears that many of these farmers had mortgages on their land as opposed to having inherited it outright, and thus paying off the mortgage was a major priority. Other respondents relay how royalties h elped pay off the farm h more money we paid our mortgages This is important because even if royalties amounts decrease in the future, farming businesses will still have extra cash because they now own their farm outright. A decreased debt burden may increase the financial sust ainability and investment capacity of farms moving forward, potentially enhancing interest in new arenas such as resource conservation. The next most frequent selection was investments in improved irrigation infrastructure ( 23/5 2 19/31 ). A considerable am ount of farmers d iscuss having u sed royalty money to switch from flood to center pivot irrigation (this likely took place 20 or 30 years ago at this point) , a technology which seriously decreases total water requirements and improves water delivery. When s Northern Colorado still relied on in efficient flood irrigation infrastructure , or conversely did not

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75 irrigate at all, so it appears that royalties may have played an essential role in this important technological shift which enhanced productivity . Echoing others, this farmer explains that t he y initially used royalties to Inter estingly, some respondents specifically emphasize investing in new irrigation equipment and practices which reduce water needs, indicating financial and environment interest in water conservation. One farmer states that royalties llowed purchase of sprin kling system to use less water for irrigation and other land improvements , while another has tried to less water , both implying that royalties may help enhance water savings in Colorado farms. Anothe r farmer specifically connects irrigation development and efficiency to royalty payments, explaining how royalties allowed them S urprisingly few respondents report using royalty cash for s avings ( 22/52 15/31 ) , perhaps because they already have some type of pension or retirement fund. Still, increased capacity to save money is a considerable benefit of royalty payments , and about half of farming mineral owners utilize them for this purpose . Especially if one is concerned about the financial vulnerability of these farms, cash savings can help buffer businesses during difficult markets. Leisure is an interesting catch all category fo r various types of personal expenses, though relatively few respondents selected it or emphasized these purchases in the write ins ( 17/52 13/31 ) . Still, it may be another indicator of quality of life improvements gained through surplus income.

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76 O thers used their royalty payments to purchase additional land and expand their production operation. While this expenditure was shortsightedly not included in the survey options, it was mentioned by 9 respo n dents in their write ins and is likely an important use of royalty cash . We have been able to expand and grow because of royalties says one respondent, with another recounting how the money One farmer even reports using royalties to purchase the equipment to origina lly establish their farm: 92 we Royalty funded equipment allowed for purchases of additional Expanding the scale of production can increase efficiency and revenue It is also possible that these additional land purchases have contributed to the consolidation trend noted by Census of Agriculture, though there are too many other factors to assume this. There were also Some u se their royalties specifically to pay their property taxes or utilities. Another paid for repairs of property and infrastructure damages from the 2013 flood s using royalty funds. Others describe how they were allowed to tie into the feeder lines and use local gas for h eating their home and other farm energy needs , ing These more subtle and idiosyncratic benefits further illuminates the diversity of royalty expenditure. A significant number of farmer s make enough in royalties that they report spending royalty cash on many or all of the possible options. It would be useful to know the relative amounts they spent on each category to narrow down their priorities, but the survey was not

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77 designed for this level of detail. Still, these anecdotes, illuminate how farmers can deploy royalties for diverse and creative purposes, making it difficult to determine specific economic effects. This respondent tells how the extra cash e nabled me to pay off farm debt an d put up a In one compelling story , a farmer describes how: Eventually enabled Dad to buy more land. It has paid for upgrades of equipment over the years. By reducing labor it enabled Mom and Dad to stay on the farm and be active, maybe extending their lives. It built their new house, it built my new house, improved my equipment, and allow Alt ogether this information paints a preliminary picture of the effects of royalty cash on farm investments , demonstrating how equipment, structures, and irrigation technology, as well as pay of their farm mortgages and equipment , avoid/pay seasonal debts , and accumulate savings. In this sense, oil and gas development may con siderably improve the productivity of farmland and generally enhance Royalties and College Tuition College tuition was a less common but still meaningful expenditure ( 12/52 9/31 ) . 19 of 52 respondents have a child in college or will soon go to college. A few farmers emphasize that their energy ut three children through c While this is not an investment in farming, it is nonetheless a meaningful investment in the opportunities and well being of farm families.

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78 Initially, we speculated that royalties used for tuition may help train the next generation of farmers, as their children receive educations in relevant fields like agricultural economics, business, agronomy, or environmental sciences. However, only 5 of t he respondents have a child studying economics or business , and none have a child studying agronomy or an environmental science (the children majors were diverse and usually completely irrelevant to farming). Moreover, o nly 2 people who spent royalty mon ey on tuition also have children who intend to farm their land as an adult ( 5 5 7 maybe intend to farm . Therefore, our hypothesis is not supported by survey data, as royalty money does not frequently go to the education of future farmers (though it does happen) . Still, altogether a considerable proportion of farmers had children who inten d or maybe intend to farm their land (Question 21) . Of 28 children, 10 intend to farm and 10 will maybe farm, implying that many of these farms will remain in the family. Interestingly, 5 operators again). Precision Technology and Resource Conservation As outlined in the Relevance/Justification section, this research was also designed to explore the possibility of farmers using royalties to invest in novel resource conservation technology , in particular digital applications such as remote sensing, moisture sensors, and GPS . Such technology can save substantial money and resources by minimizing waster and maximizing efficiency, bu t it requires large upfront capital investments which some farmers are unable or unwilling to make. Is it possible that cash surplus from royalties allows interested

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79 Re sults are definitely mixed, but there is evidence that yes, royalties may help certain farmers invest in resource conservation technology. Of 32 farmers, 29 are familiar with precision tech., and only 3 of them report that they it (Question 14). Only the remaining 3 say they are not familiar. Obviously the use of such technology is already widespread in Weld, and the majority of farmers have been exposed to it in fact, one respondent found it offensive that I would even ask, claiming th at the question assumes most farmers are ignorant and back wards. All this implies that there is definitely knowledge of and interest in resource conservation technology in Weld County, and that royalties may help fund these transition s . 16 of 32 farming respondents have purchased or used high tech applications, with many implying that they continue to use this technology (Question 13) . Some specifically refer to GPS guided tractors , drones, or moisture sensors , though most do not specify what particular technology they use . In hindsight this would have been very useful information, as not all of these technologies have the same purpose or implications . It is difficult to speculate on the meaning of these investments without knowing the specific equipment utilized . Nonetheless, these technologies are all designed to increase efficiency and reduce waste , ultimately improving the finances of the farm. In addition, many of them minimize water, fertilizer, and pesticides, which reduces pollution and conserves natural resources. Farmers describe how technology can redu ce waste of water, seed, fertilizers, etc, which could reduce expenses and enhance yield One farmer employs technology because it prov etter tools which decrease manual labor , and keeps farming current with other industries.

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80 However , only 2 farmers who have not already used some sort of precision tech. say they are interested in trying it, so most have already made up their mind and purchased it, or otherwise never intend to ( Question 15). Still, one t had Notably, 5 lessors report having purchased or used precision tech, suggesting that they are former farmers or are otherwise interested in resource conservation technology (refer to the beginning of the Farm Investments section for context). One non farming landlord notes that the ir precision tech constantly , logy up to the people The role of royalties in this investment remains unclear (Question 17) . The 16 respondents who do use precision tech also report that royalties have made these investments more affordable for them , and explain that they required this extra cash to make major high tech purchases. However, the remaining 16 farmers who do not use precision tech are less certain, with 12 4 others selectin g , they do not. Yet for the 16 farmers who receive royalties and chose to invest in precision tech, oil and gas royalties may indeed have become a vector of sustainable farming. A total of 10 out of 32 farming mineral owners said that they have never used precision tech and have no interest in doing so. According to these and other respondents, the scale of an operation is the primary factor in the decision to use precision technology. A great deal of respondents note that their farm is too small to r equire precision tech , suggesting that small farms either cannot afford this technology both) . It is unclear how big a farm must be until this tech becomes more useful, but one farmer

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81 says that they do t need it because their Given that the median farm size in Weld is only 80 acres, it appears most operations are simply t o o small to utilize digital apps or to pay back the costs. Others say that high tech apps are simply too expensive for them, even with royalty payments , claim ing tates that hired labor is simply too affordable to justify the In additi on, a lot of farms in Weld County are dryland operations, which irrigate infrequently and generally involve less intensive management and lower inputs, making precision tech. less necessary unnecessary in general farm are weak and work to improve them. Plus, I do not want someone else ownin Obviously then, part of the reason farmers in Weld might not invest in this technology is because they neither need nor want to, not simply Ultimately, this portion of the inquiry is inconclusive. While some farme rs did invest in precision tech using their royalties, many others either coul or were otherwise not interested. Such a relationship appears context dependent and driven by a variety of factors unique to each farm, like agronomic/economic scale, crop type, and farmer preferences. Still, there is evidence that royalty payments may contribute to investments in resource conservation tech in cases where farmers are able and w ish to deploy it , including

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82 moisture sensors, drone s, and updated irrigation tech (see Farm Investments section). This makes for a complex and counter intuitive relationship between energy and agriculture in Weld County. Environmental Impacts and Farming Practices Energy extraction involves the possibili ty of significant environmental damage such as water and soil pollution , whether due to drilling accidents, leak y well casings, or breaks in feeder lines. Natural gas also entails risks to safety and public health due to the possibility of explosions and m ethane/ozone accumulation from the flares . Hence, extraction which takes place on farmland may have certain impacts on agricultural resources and farming operations . T his section with the environmental effects of energy extraction on farmland as well as how t he y must modify their farming practices due to the presence of well pads and tank batter ies. Although this project focuses primarily on farm investments from energy royalties, it remains on environmental impacts . B ecause such risks are a central component of opportunity cost surrounding en ergy development , they become critical to the broader farm decision making pr oces s. Energy development inevitably has both benefits and costs for producers. Studying how different farmers conceptualize the complex sets of risk and opportunity that accompan y energy royalties is necessary for understanding why farmers and other agricultural landowners decide to participate in energy development to begin with . Conversely, it also helps us appreciate the experiences of

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83 non mineral owners who were never given a choice. 39 Obviously many landowners believe that the benefits of extraction exceed the real and potential impacts, and this data can shed light on their rationale . Through such an inquiry, w e ultimately hope to enhance understanding of how and why energy de velopment takes place on farmland. Contamination risk It appears that a majority of respondents do not view energy extraction as posing any fundamental threat to the health of their land or business, and are relatively unconcerned by the possibility of sp ills (Questions 27, 28, 41, and 43). Altogether, only 12 of 73 respondents (16%) believe that the wells on their land pose any risk to their resources or farming business, while another 10 selected Maybe and 4 were unsure. As a percentage, non mineral ow ners are more likely to believe that oil and gas wells pose a risk to their land . It may be intuitive that non mineral owners would be more attuned to the negative implications of energy development, but this sample size is much too small to determine any meaningful pattern. 40 Respondents who do not believe the wells pose a risk to their land were less likely to elaborate in the write in section, so we have less specific information about their rational e . Those who did elaborate seemed t o think risks were minimal and that spills are unlikely. One 39 Here we will consider both mineral owners and non mineral owners simultaneously, as both of these groups have equally relevant experiences regarding impacts on farmland. For information which is specific to non mineral owners, such as their surface use ag reement and the nature of their relationship to mineral owners and well operators, see the section entitle Experiences of Non mineral Owners. Still, where relevant I will explore differences of opinion between mineral owners and non owners. In some places, non 40 41 out of 53 mineral owners (77%) responded No, hydraulic fracturing is not a significant contamination risk in their opinion, while 7 say maybe and only 5 say ye s; of non mineral owners 14 say no, 7 say yes, and 3 say maybe. When asked if they believe the wells on their land pose any risk to their business, the responses are identical, with 77% of mineral owners selecting No and only 8 of 27 non mineral owners sel ecting Yes.

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84 deemphasize the impact of spills, and see the wells as merely inconvenient rather than any threat, stating th ings like t see a risk, [but it is] hard to farm around wells tracks and roads , Maybe some minor damage, short term. Pipes can leak. Th e second epends on management by oil companies and age/maintenance of resources asserting that spills are not a fundamental risk of extraction but a product of poor management and degradation of aging infrastructure. One farmer also clarifies that they are not concerned about groundwater geologic/hydrologic context is essential to assessing spill risks. Respondents w ho were concerned about water table pollution and that oil and threaten to A more opinionated resp ondent says that wells pose a risk to their land oison f I owned the mineral rights, I wouldn t let them frack here (for the record, this person is not a farmer). In any case, it is clear that certain farmers and landowners are indeed aware of and concerned by the potential of contamination. Only a single respondent reports experiencing a water contamination event directly, but it still provides evidence that such events do take place in Weld: Recently, several water wells in our section have been made unusable due to gas that has been sourced by COGIS to specific fracturing operations. Three, deep water wells owned by our small water system supply about 125 homes and farms. Losing those wells due to fracturing mishaps would be disastrous

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85 Many farmers seem to focus on leaks from the feeder lines rather than the wellheads themselves. Although they say nothing about fracking or drilling, they are very aware of transfer lines beneath and bordering their fields which bring natu ral gas from the wells to collection tanks : crops, If there were to be a rupture there could possibly be contamination of water, soil, or crop. Another farme One non mineral own ing farmer articulately describes the nature of contamination risk on their fa rm , perhaps speaking for these experiences as well w hen asked if they view hydraulic fracturing as a threat to their natural resources , they respond that: Fracking is not the issue. In general, people have no clue what s really going on. The real safety risk is the production side of things, like oil lines leaking into soil and groundwater, high pressure lines getting hit, the amount of semi traffic are public safety issues, not fracking! Risk of spills, leaks, traffic, personal injury bec ause of oil and gas production all add risk to my business. There are up to 11 oil wells per quarter section with high pressure gas plus the tank batteries that we have to drive our equipment around all the time. It s very dangerous. Th ese respondents emphasis on feeder lines ( and vehicle traffic ) rather than drilling or wellheads illuminates the importan ce of secondary infrastructure in creating the negative environmental impacts of energy development. The spectacular portrayals of massive spill event s and drinking water contamination during the drilling process may not be representative of most impacts, and such risks may ultimately be less significant than the many smaller contamination events and safety risks which come to permeate everyday life on the farm. Accordingly , research on the effects of oil and gas on farmland should give more attention to secondary infrastructure rather than the fracking process alone.

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86 Yet on the whole, a considerable minority of respondents seem to view energy developme nt as a serious contamination risk. While there is some talk of leaking gas pipes, the idea that energy extraction may systematically endanger agricultural resources is not represented by any farmers in the survey . It appears that contamination risks do not factor directly into the decision making process of most farmers ; while many acknowledge that it is possible, they tend to view risks as minimal and the purview of the well operator (whom many seem to trust). The catastrophic portrayal of fracking in m ainstream environmentalism is entirely absent from the ir descriptio ns and anecdotes. What does it mean that so many food producers who live and work around these wells do not see them as a fundamental threat to our farmland or food system? Are they simply mistaken, or do their experiences problematize the polarizing rhetoric around unconventional gas? While contamination risks are indeed very real, many actual farmers in Weld have experienced no problems with their wells alternatively, most explain how ene rgy development provides them with essential supplemental income which keeps their farm in business and allows them to invest in new technology. Perhaps then we must reassess our impressions of the relationship between energy extraction and farming in Colo rado. Information sources on contamination risk One possible explanation for the lack of concern about soil a n d water pollution is the sources where farmers tend to get information about extraction technology. The survey is very much inconclusive in this regard, but it does indicate some trends that may be meaningful (Question 34 / hydraulic fracturing, such as safety and environmental regul 50 out of 7 3

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87 least to some degree, and do view them as a reliable resource for scientific information on safety and contamination risks . Notably, non mineral owners appear less likely to receive information from the oil and gas company, with only 9 of 20 respondents (as compared to 41 of 53 mineral owners ) . This indicates that non mineral owners may have less trust in industry narratives than mineral owners. The other common selection is of course the news media ( 48 of 73 ) , though most respondents opted not to specify their sources which mak es it a fairly meaningless metric. Some do mention mainstream media outlets, in particular the Denv er Post ( which covers the oil and gas controversy in some detail , including regulatory policy, spill risks, explosion deaths, air quality problems , . searching for diverse sources rather than relying on one outlet. But w ithout knowing specific websites, it is impossible to know what sorts of information or organizations these landowners find during their research. 31 of 73 say they also receive informa tion from local friends and acquaintances, using personal/experiential networks to seek out knowledge on regulations, risks, and impacts. A handful of others ( 7 ) mention that they or their friends/family have personally worked or continue to work in the oi l and gas industry, sometimes as engineers who actually design fracking methods. Respondents almost undoubtedly trust the first hand accounts of their friends/family more than random news sources, and such personal associations probably contribute to their trust of the oil and gas companies in general. This information illustrates how

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88 personal trust networks are also an important element of information exchange and knowledge construction around energy development in farming communities. As we know, the oil and gas industry tends to have a different perspective on spill risk and general environmental impacts than do other researchers (formerly including the EPA, who had formally acknowledged many instances of groundwater contamination from unconventional gas operations). Company sponsored organizations like COGA vehemently deny that oil and gas operations cause significant pollution of any type on the Front Range. Hence, the fact that so many farmers get information primarily from the oil and gas companies ma y give them a particular perspective (indeed, a deeply problematic one). In other words, i t is possible that a majority of respondents do not see any contamination risks because th at is what they were told by the well operator lmost always that there is minimal or no risk . M oreover, these responses imply that many respondents have not necessarily been exposed to primary scientific research on the negative impacts. However, we believe this conclusion would require some irresponsible assumption s . For one, it is deeply condescending to assume that landowners would simply take industr y s word on complex and significant issues like contamination risk . In all likelihood t hese survey respondents are capable and educated peopl e, and are not so naïve as to blindly trust organizations who obviously have self interested motivations. Even without knowing specific sources, the use of Google illuminates the independent and idiosyncratic knowledge seeking process that also takes place absorb and regurgitate the rhetoric of specific organizations, but creatively assemble their own knowledges from diverse sources.

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89 Further, people generate knowledge through personal experience as well, not merely competing scienti fic reports . Most of these respondents have lived and worked around oil and gas operations for longer than I have even been alive , and so their perspectives and the personal experiences which shape them should be taken seriously. Therefore, while there is some evidence that landowners may not always be exposed to certain types of critical information on environmental impacts, we cannot produce any meaningful conclusions regarding the nature of knowledge construction in these areas. Other farm impacts and modifying f arming practices There are a variety of possible impacts of energy extraction other than spills and contamination , including soil compaction, decreased air quality due to dust and emissions, loss of productivity , and decreased land values. In addition, the presence of wellheads and tanks batteries requires farmers to modify their farming practices and creates significant hazards. When asked if oil and gas has negatively impacted their land or business, a total of 51 respondents (70%) say No , while 21 respondents (30%) say Yes. The No responses appear to be partially in flated by non impacts to the farmland . O f 51 farming respondents, 21 (41%) report negative impacts. There are also significant differences between mineral owning farmers and non mineral owning farmers (as well as mineral/non mineral owners in general). An entire 12 out of 19 non mineral owning farmers ( 63 %) describe negative impacts, as opposed to only 2 8 % of mineral owning farmers. Similarly, only 26 % of mineral owners report negative impacts, as opposed to 53 % of non mineral owners. Perhaps predictably, people who do not own minerals and receive less financial benefit are more likely to focus on the neg ative impacts of development on their land. ( .

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90 The most frequently cited impact in the survey is loss of farmable acreage or land productivity due to oil and gas infrastructure. Farmers explain how they e required for wellheads, feeder lines, tank batteries, equipment storage (during drilling), and maintenance access points . This lost acreage can add up and ultimately reduce farm output/revenue one farmer notes that although royalties have part of this extra revenue only Hence while royalties infuse extra cash into the budgets of farm businesses, energy development also costs farmers money. Others note how infrastructure requires modification to existing irrigation infrastructure, entailing extra labor and costs for the Farmable acreage has decreased and irrigation and access have to be routed around wells. nes and well sites are not nearly as possibility of small leaks could cause localized infertility and plant stress. Another farmer al wells were not back filled properly, so you can still see where they were . W e lost production in those areas. This points to the importance of effective soil remediation after wells are exhausted, a problem which will become of increasing importance in the future as contemporary wells begin to be plugged. Others lost production for more nuanced exploration that should have been removed.

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91 Some respondents note how remediation and compensation for these impacts is often land than they need for trucks, lane depicts One farmer argues that surface infrastructure shou ld be regulated and limited because companies do have the technology to place pads offsite ome land was taken out of production to accommodate drilling infrastructure. As such, and because of directional drilling techno logy, [I believe] fewer pads and access roads should be allowed. it adds costs on their side (especially since it sounds like even mineral owners sometimes have limited control over well placement). Another impact mentioned is reduced property values , as farm land with oil and gas wells is understandably less desirable real estate for prospective buyers (due to the very sorts of inconveniences and impacts discussed in this section ). Respondents explain that gas well in the middle of (presumably also reducing farmable acreage and thus property value). This is especially true since in all likelihood the mineral rights will be severed when the land is sold , if they have not a lready been severed, and so the buyer will not themselves receive any financial benefit from the existing wells. Moreover, the surface buyer will have no say in the process of fu ture energy development, and oftentimes will inherit the surface use agreement of

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92 the previous landowner (see Experiences of Non mineral Owners ). All these factors may suppress the real estate value of farmland with oil and gas wells. In this sense, energy their finances in the long term, whether they receive royalties or not. One respondent contends that financial does not take into account future loss of value such as through reduced land values or losses in crop production/acreage. A handful of people mention excessive dust in their list of negative impacts. The hydraulic fracturing method requires mass quantities of sand to mix with the fluid during drilling (this s ediment helps hold the fractures open in order to extract the gas) , and silica dust emissions are released during the transport and mixing of the sand . Dust emissions are also released from l and vegetation removal producing dust as well. For this reason, fracking sites are often associated with large scale silica pollution. 41 We ll s can also create large dust emissions due to the tankers and heavy equipment traveling to the well sites on dirt roads. While this may seem like more of an inconvenience than an environmental impact, there is increasing evidence that dust from oil and gas fields have negative effects on regional air quality. 42 Additionally, s ilica can cause a variety of lung diseases including cancer, and is acknowledged as a serious occupational hazard for oil and gas 41 John, O. R. E. N., and Joshua Oren. "Methods and systems to transfer proppant for fracking with reduced risk of production and release of silica dust at a well site." U.S. Patent 9,340,353, issued May 17, 2016. 42 Field, R. A., J. Soltis, and S. Murphy. "Air quality concerns of unconventional oil and natural gas production." Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts 16, no. 5 (2014): 954 969 ; Litovitz, Aviva, Aimee Curtright, Shmuel Abramzon, Nicholas Burger, and Constantine Samaras. "Estimat ion of regional air quality damages from Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania." Environmental Research Letters 8, no. 1 (2013): 014017.

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93 workers. 43 Future research should hence explore silica dust concentrations on Weld County farms and the respiratory effects for farmers and livestock. Surprisingly few respondents mention soil damage as a negative implication, though it does come up and probably happens to varying degrees on most farmland . A few farmers need for soil removal and replacement following drilling, nev er put back into its fields by crews not knowing where to access , implying that ignorance or negligence on the part of maintenance workers can cause additional soil damage. One farmer tells how the construction has required that we reclaim some grassland as the oil companies do a poor job of this. can also lead to longer term pr oductions losses. However, other respondents have had a different experience with the oil and gas companies. This farmer shares that ven just surface damage is paid for quite well and they always return the land back to its original condition (however, this person is not a farmer, so their sense of soil damage and remediation may be limited). These different experiences can probably be explained by varying operating companies, as some probably invest more in keeping the surface users happy. Further, we know that non mineral owners are more likely to report negative impacts , and this could be because operators use better access/remediation practices if 43 https://www.o sha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/hydraulic_frac_hazard_alert.html ; Steenland, Kyle, and Elizabeth Ward. "Silica: a lung carcinogen." CA: a cancer journal for clinicians 64, no. 1 (2014): 63 69; McDermott Levy, Ruth, Nina Kaktins, and Barbara Sattler. "Fracking, t he environment, and health." AJN The American Journal of Nursing 113, no. 6 (2013): 45 51.

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94 the surface owner is also the mineral owner (the operator has very little legal or financial obligation to a non mineral owner). Lastly, many farmers have had to change elements of their farming practices due to energy development , with 2/3rds of farming respondents saying that their farming practice has changed since the wells were established. The write i ns d iscuss the difficulty and danger of farming around the wellheads and tank batteries respondent suggests that they (presumably because of the maneuver ing difficulty and risk of rupturing feeder lines with the equipment , though they do not elaborate beyond this short phrase). Another clarifies that it depends if the farmer is able to negotiate the specific location of infrastructure in the fields, hen the oil company cooperates with location [i.e. the placing of the well s ], little changes. When not , it is a big p roblem to farm around. For others, the infrastructure has never A couple respondents express frustration with state policy reg arding setbacks . One farmer portrays how setbacks can actually reduce farm acreage as well, as farmers can no longer utilize areas in the buffer zone for certain things . Some farmers note a setbacks , reduce their available acreage. Another explain s how the buffer regulations ironically created more rather than less problems and risks for farmer/farmland: The changes in oil and gas regulations as to well locations being out in the field and not near the road or buildings creates a

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95 big headache. Th is farmer c laims that state regulations which require larger offset distance s from roads and buildings actually just led to more wells and infrastructure being placed directly in the middle of the ir fields . This story illuminat es how mitigation policies can have contradictory and counter intuitive consequences in various contexts. But this problem of working around energy infrastructure doe s not only create inconveniences and loss of production it also entails significant safety risks for farmers. O ne w e have already hit a couple of well heads with wide equipment , well n my area there have been some explosions and fires, some leading to deaths (although most such explosions are probably involving company workers and not farmers, it still illustrates that these accidents can and do happen on farmland). A quotation from above reiterates the potential danger of farming around energy infrastructure: because of oil and gas production also adds risk to my business. There are up to 11 oil wells per quarter section with high pressure gas plus the tank batteries that we have to drive our equipment around all the time. It These safety risks must be incorporated into our sense of costs and benefits of energy development on farmland. The survey also inquired if royalty payments compelled the respondent to leave land un der fallow for soil recovery more often. The assumption was that farmers might make enough in royalties to occasionally cease planting, perhaps to plant a cover crop and allow soil nutrients to regenerate, or perhaps simply to take a break because they cou ld afford to do so. However, only 7 of 32 respondents said that they leave land fallow more often, so it would appear to be a relatively uncommon practice . M ost farmers continue to farm their land with the same frequency as before.

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96 This section illustrat es that risks associated with energy development are often somewhat subtle and not directly related to spills and contamination . It has also shown how exploring farmer anecdotes can reveal new and more nuanced problems with energy development . Clearly, t hese other negative impacts to farmland should be taken into greater consideration in research regarding oil and gas. Noise pollution, i nconvenience , and quality of life Other impacts commonly referenced in the write ins have more to do with inconvenienc e and quality of life. Energy development necessarily entails massive construction projects and heavy traffic , which inevitably alter the cultural and sensuous landscape as well as the physical and economic landscape . These transformations in rural aesthet ics are important elements of traffic damages county roads and creates excess noise: and noise, Others note the the storage tanks make loud noise A few also mention light pollution as a problem as maintenance workers use flood lights to work at night. Some focus more explicitly on a loss of rural aesthetics as a primary negative implication of energy development.

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97 County. They have destroyed the country feelings, increased big rig traffic, and polluted our (interestingly, this comment actually comes from a mine ral owning but non farming respondent). Another lists negative impacts like raffic, noise, [ and loss of] rural ambiance as production facilities lower redevelopment opportunities. When asked if they have quality of life has suffered during installation of some wells. The oil companies have been very active in our area. Problems include tru A couple seem to associate this loss of rural values with constant strangers on their property, depicting problems with eople and contractors coming and going without notice don t kn A related complaint is oil workers no t maintenance workers accessing productio n site usually don t close gates properly, so livestock safety is compromised. These anecdotes provide cultural insight and personal context to our narrative, revealing the more intimate effects of energy development on the rural landscape. While some of these grievances may seem trivial, they all represent fundamental cultural attachments and aspects of research also portrays the intangible and immeasurabl e impacts such as loss of quiet, stars, and ambiance rural resources which many people value as much as they do soil, water, and air. Such impacts can be folded into a broader narrative of agricultural change due to energy development.

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98 Hydraulic Fracturi ng and Water Access A handful of farmers argue that the proliferation of unconventional gas extraction in Weld has decrease d the availability and affordability of water . Hydraulic fracturing of course requires enormous quantities of water during the drilling process, and well operators often must purchase agricultural water in order to gain access to the resources they need . When asked about moved [water] also are buying water from ditch companies that are specified for agricultural use , uying water at high prices that farmers then can't buy or use for agriculture. farmer believes that energy development is predominantly positive for petroleum based extraction using fracking technology has used vast quantities of water. Drilling companies out compete farmers for water purchases, thus negatively affecting irrigation needs. In some cases, oil and gas companies may be purchasing water rights from particular plot s that are transitioning out of irrigated farming for one reason or ano ther. Because highly capitalized companies can afford to pay significantly more for water rights, it is difficult for mid sized farmers looking to expand their operation to compete. In another scenario, energy companies are purchasing large volumes of wate r from the local ditch company which owns/manages irrigation infrastructure and sells water to users at a predefined rate. This new demand can reduce water in the ditches and drive up the rates charged to farmers. Moreover, it is possible that fracking can reduce the actual volume/availability of water at local scales. Unlike most agricultural water uses, water utilized for hydraulic fracturing is permanently contaminated

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99 and cannot be released back into the watershed hence this water cannot flow downstream into other irrigation ditches nor recharge local groundwater, perhaps decreasing total volume available in the watershed during the growing season. 44 While only 3 respondents specifically mentioned this dynamic, it nonetheless serves as preliminary evidenc e that th e phenomenon may occur in certain circumstances. This would be an excellent question for further research into the implications of energy development in agricultural regions. In conclusion, energy development on agricultural landscapes has myriad effects, many of which are nuanced and context dependent. Although a majority of farmers are not worried about massive contamination risks from drilling, many do express concern about farming around feeder lines and tank batteries, noting that ruptures co uld seriously contaminate their land. property value, soil damage, safety concerns, and reductions in perceived quality of life , confirming that our definition o For our purposes, these descriptions provide insight into the nature of decision making and risk assessment on Weld County farms , perhaps pointing to the mixed, uncertain, and contradictory feelings of decision making landowners. in particular embodies the ambivalence of farmer s who participate in energy development ; w hen asked if they have experienced negative effects, they respond: 44 However, it should be noted that in total, fracking uses only a small percentage of all water in Colorado, with the overwhelming majority of our water going to agricultural uses. If fracking reduces the availability of water for irrigation, it probably on ly does so because farmers already require the majority of water available in the region. It probably also occurs on specific localized scales where water is already scarce, irrigation needs are large, and unconventional well density is high. More specific research is necessary to sort out these details.

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100 while drilling occurs. But there is also concern for pollution, land removed from production, and ultimate care/disposal of drilling equipment once O + G production cease For them and others, it is far from straightforward to navigate the complex sets of risk and opportunity which accompany energy development on farmland. Mineral Ownership and Inequalities in Decision making / Positive Impacts As outlined in detail in the section entitled Surface/Subsurface Tenure , the mineral ownership dynamic determines a lot about the effects of extraction for farming businesses . Because non owners have dramatically fewer privileges , we cannot make blanket statements about how royalties might influence farmers. This section explores the differences in opinion between mineral and non mineral owners, and highlights some of the inequalities and tensions that emerge from this division. Experiences of n on mineral o wners Non mineral owners undoubtedly have different perspectives on and experiences with oil and gas development. They usually have less ability to negotiate the specific of well placement and access points, and they receive no royalty payments. Exploring the experiences of non owners adds context to the relationship between farming and extraction whoever wishes to argue that energy development is positive for agricultural communities must reconcile that claim with these farmers

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101 The extraction company always negotiates a contract with the landowner which governs 45 Even if the surface owner is also the mineral owner, the agreement must be establish to determin e things like access points, compensation or remediation for surface damage, liability and compensation in the event of a spill, and sometimes more specific demands like noise and dust control. Understanding the nature of these contracts gives insight into the relative negotiating power of non mineral owners. The s pecific stipulations of surface use agreements are negotiated independently and appear to vary considerably (Question 36 ) . The specifics of the agreement probably depends on the extraction compani es, as some tend to concede more and other take advantage; it also depends on the knowledge, savvy, and leverage of the landowner (most especially whether or not they are also the mineral owner). 46 When asked what their surface use agreement entails, 61 % s aid upfront financial compensation, 38 % said financial compensation in the event of a spill, 61 % said restrictions on placement of infrastructure, 45 % said restrictions on time and place of access, 47 and only 22 % said measures to limit dust or noise . One ll of the above are recognized 45 5 of 33 respondents say they do not have an agreement or are not aware of their agreement. This could mean they have very few legal rights in regards to surface use. I am not s ure, no one has ever informed me of an agreement never properly transferred to this buyer. Surface use has historically been given to landowners near the well, not ju st landowners where the well is placed , an important consideration for future research. 46 A mineral owner will have more leverage in negotiating their surface use agreement because they can reject the offer to drill at all, or otherwise select another co mpany to do business with. Hence a well operator will likely try to keep a mineral owning landowner happy and concede more. The company really has no incentive to negotiate beyond basic requirements with a non mineral owning farmer, as the mineral owner ha s most of the power. 47

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102 and respected by all of the drilling companies we have dealt with. These results indicate that many surface owners do receive upfront compensation and can negotiate access and well placement, though surprisingly few receive spill compensation or involve noise/dust control. ompensation for subsequent operations and reworks would not necessarily be covered by the original compensation payment. One respondent em reclamation is the most important! one of the options, but no other respondent mentions it in the Other write in , suggesting that reclamation might not be a component of all or even most surface use a greements. When farming non mineral owners were asked if energy development has positively impacted their business, 8 of 21 say Yes, while 5 say they are unsure and 8 say No. Notably, all of the respondents who say Yes also reported that energy developmen t has negatively impacted their business as well, so not a single non mineral owner has experienced only positive impacts. From th e surface use agreement responses , it appears that a fair amount of non mineral owners still receive some form of financial co mpensation ( though not all and it is undoubtedly much less than actual royalty payments ) . Some mineral rights are negotiated so that the surface user receives a share of the royalty e also receive a royalty . Others discuss inancial compensation for well sites and flow lines xtra money for expenses and cattle guards e now have horizontal wells placed strategically on marginal ground. They pay very well per dri lled hole financial gains from compensation alone. More income, but it's not consistent ; Additional income, though mi nimal. One farmer perhaps cynically responds that

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103 development h t gives me experience dealing with these companies. Damages paid and royalties paid can significantly benefit those receiving them. In addition, some non mineral ow ners report receiving substantial benefits in One respondent report that Another depicts a variety of land improvements conducted by the well ope rator, telling how b y working with an oil company, I have gotten roads built and maintained, lake work done, pipe for use on all kinds of projects, even ground work done . 48 For these reasons, we cannot necessarily assume that non mineral owners receive no benefits at all from oil and gas drilling . However, many non mineral owners nonetheless claim that they do not benefit directly from energy development . In particular, res pondents believe they have not been fully compensated for surface damage. hardships and barriers in their operation, but are usually compensated differently , or similarly his is a m uch more difficult question in the absence of royalty payments. I am not at all sure that surface damages are fully compensated. Also recall that non mineral owners were significantly more likely than owners to report negative impacts on their land (12 of 19). Certain respondents emphasized these negative impacts and the lack of any positive benefits: 48 Perhaps it matters that this respondent is also a mineral owner on other parcels and hence does other business with oil companies as well.

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104 I receive all the grief that goes along with oil and gas with no compensation from royalties. Land damage, loss of production, traffic, people entering my property, theft, We are subject to all of the negative impacts, e.g. noise, dust, traffic, pollution and industrial structures. However, there is no compensation from roya lties. Additionally, our land values are negatively affected by the proximity of oil and gas production. Tenant farmers probably get the shortest straw of all. Tenants are unlikely to receive any personal reimbursement for surface damage, as the landown er is the one who holds the surface use agreements and thus receives the damages (even though it is likely the farmer who has to deal directly with the damage and loss of production). may not get reimbursed for crop complication of widespread farm leasing, as tenant farmers are rarely compensated for their losses. That being said, one respondent who is a tenant on other land does say his business is positively royalties have brought extra income to my landlords , some of which may be reinvested in farming or remediation. While the surface use agreements described in Question 36 appear rather favorable, others have had very little leverage in negotiating their agreements. One respondent claims that the landowners who do not own mineral rights do not have much control over well placement, drilling times, and that sort of thing , ne sided negotiations for surface use A couple farmers claim that they have agreements, bargain with each occurrence We have no control We have to bargain with the company each time anything is done or needed, and even though they usually

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105 compensate to some degree, we feel we have no control over our land. One landowner illuminates how surface use agreements can be inherited rather than r enegotiated when land is Generally, the SUAs on my land were negotiated by previous landowners. Now I have to live with them. mineral rights have very little power to negotiate the terms and conditions of extraction on their land. And yet, a slight majority of non mineral owner respondents still believe that energy development is overall good for rural communities in Colorado (Question 44 : 20 of 31 say Yes, 3 say M aybe, 3 say N o, and 5 say U nsure) . Perhaps this seeming contradiction reiterates the sense of ambivalence which surrounds energy development in Weld in spite of the negative impacts and inequalities, many believe the additional capital and cash ultimately helps agricultural economies as a whole. t is needed, it is safe, it adds greatly to the local community. Some emphasize tax dollars to the state and c It brings in tax dollars and helps the economy taxes and fees it lowers property taxes and gives the county resources to keep the roads in better onal revenue to the financial vulnerability of Financially it has helped farmers to stay in farming. Health wise the improvements to irrigation and equipment has allowed older farmers a better and longer quality of life another simply sta tes ard to make a good income farming. One respondent connects All of our farm businesses are much better

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106 off because our area farmers and ranchers buy more products [farm inputs] than those where there isn't oil or gas production. We all burn oil and gas. Some are not so convinced. Some respondents are wary of the damages and environmental risks associated with massive energy extraction; as this farmer says nce your land is damaged it is hard to recover. Another farmer understandably argues that energy nly if royalties are paid to the surface owner. No benefit to a surface owner without mineral rights. But others re cognize both risk and opportunity, appearing uncertain about the actual implications. One respondent claim that energy s long as it is done responsibly , b ecause gas and oil royalties are one more tool to use in life, more tools equals more possibilities. A different farmer says that energy f done correctly, it could be. Currently, most energy companies do the bare minimum as there is not substantial enforcement or oversight by the county asizing regulation, mitigation, and remediation as necessary for making energy development work with and around agriculture. Some explicitly describe their ambivalence and outline the contradictory impacts "o n the plus side , revenue. On the negative side, loss of use, loss of quality of life. While there have been significant negative impacts, there are some positive aspects to the area's economic health. It is hard to judge i f the net impact is negative or positive. Inequalities and t ensions between owners and non owne rs Because of these inequalit ies between mineral owners and non mineral owners in terms of financial benefit and decision making power, it is possible that there is some conflict or tension between thes e two groups . Non mineral owners may ha rbor certain resentments or at

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107 least misgivings about the proliferation of drilling in Weld , given that they benefit very little . lity between people with different tenure situations. Nothing in the survey results suggests that there is systematic conflict between the surface and mineral owner on specific parcels ; h owever, the comments do reveal a lot of more general hard feelings ab out the asymmetrical distribution of costs and benefits. Importantly, t hese anecdotes also serve to clarify and reinforce a variety of dynamics explored in other sections for example, some respondents imply that split estates are quite common and many ir area anymore, while others say that most farmers they know are also mineral owners . Others reiterate that surface/soil damage is definitely a problem and not always adequately compensated. These stories also echo the ways that non mineral owners often have few rights and little negotiating power , as well as how mineral owning, non farming landlords tend to be fairly dis engaged or disinterested in terms of farm related problems and decision making (one non farming mineral o wner admits that they really . The slight majority of mineral owners report that y es, there are tensions and disagreements around energy develo pment (16 yes, 13 maybe, 13 no, 10 unsure) . R esults are more or less even/mixed for non mineral owners (7 yes, 5 maybe, 6 no, 7 unsure). Altogether, 36 of 7 1 respondents (51%) report that there are or might be tensions, and another 16 state that they are unsure ( sometimes but not always non farmers who are less active in local affairs) . Respondents who selected Maybe usually elaborated on how and why this could occur, and from

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108 their responses it is reasonable consider them a tentative Yes as they defin i tively acknowledge the possibility. This means that only 26 % of respondents report definitely not experiencing any disagreements , leading us to believe that some tension absolutely occurs and is even fairly common. 49 Respondents who report ed n o conflict were less likely to comment further, so we have less information on their experiences. The only 2 mineral owners who said No and also commented did help clarify why there is no conflict . T in our a rea since most landowners have the minerals very few split estates and thus few grievances about energy development amongst landowners. ost land owners in my area have received money or benefited in some way mineral owners do receive payments in some circumstances (however, this respondent is themselves a mineral owner, so For the most part, non mineral owners who said No also opted not to elaborate disagreements, neighbors communicate and get along one between us and the mineral rights owner. Another non mineral owner acknowledges the p ossib ility of disagreements, stating that n my case there is not , but there sure could be. The r easons for possible tensions are fairly predictabl e, but nonetheless shed light on the experiences and frustrations of non mineral owners. Interestingly, many mineral owners tended to have insightful and sympathetic perspectives on the plight of non mineral owners. Some 49 Notably, these responses are not influenced by whether or not the person farms themselves (non farming landlords r eport very similarly).

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109 simply explain how non mineral owne he wells are in their fields but they do not receive royalties , il and gas gathering lines cross fields when not desired by the landowner Many of these comments reinforce that oil and gas operations definitely cause p roblems for farmers, and mineral owning farmers simply tolerate the impacts because they are offset by the immense financial gains: more important to non Another adds that the wells up set non mineral owners ecause it does make it harder to farm. An exceptionally honest non farming mineral owner goes so far as to admit that he farmers are really the ones who have to live with the oil and gas issues , not the mineral owner who is getting the royalties. In this sense, while some farming mineral owners receive cash which compensates for surface damage, other mineral owners are either not farmers or not surface owners and so are totally unaffected by any surface damage. This could understandably breed resentment from farmers. Similarly, one respondent says that and gas operations, non A farmer who both owns and does not own minerals hose who don t receive royalties still have to put up with increased traffic and drilling without financial gain , othing makes a farmer more jealous than seeing his neighbor on a new tractor. Anoth er respondent similarly explains the understandable jealousies, as mineral owners production practices are likely to improve imenting with new crops like hemp. Others emphasize th at the lack of input in land use decision making, rather than just the money or impacts , is what perturbs many non mineral owners . One mineral owner explains that

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110 he landowners who do not own mineral rights do not have as much control over well placement, drilling times, and that sort of thing so they have a very different outlook This unequ al power to determine the conditions of energy development undoubtedly frustrates many non mineral owners , even those who are less concerned about the money. A few non mineral owning respondents emphasize that many mineral owners do not even live in the region anymore , and thus are not effected or concerned by the negative impacts of widespread oil and gas operations. One many of the landowners who own mineral rights do not live in the area. Some have moved away once oi l and gas production started [no small irony there] . Others are only in the area part time, having acquired mountain and/or Southwestern vacation homes. Another farmer with mineral rights on only some of his land explains how some people with mineral rights tend to disengage from local affairs: Many landowners who have mineral rights have moved away. They generally avoid or have ceased contact with farmers who remain. Other landowners wit h mineral rights have become reclusive. That sort of isolation generates distrust and tension. However, there is a minority of landowners who have remained relatively unchanged, social realistic, open and seek to remove any tensions that might exis t. How ever, conflict is not always between mineral and non mineral owners. A few respondents clarify that mineral These mineral owning farmers argue that non mi neral owners tend to direct their frustration at the well operators ( whose crews actually damage their land ) rather than at the mineral owners I have heard of tension between landowners who do not own minerals and oil and gas production companies. But no t between landowners who do and do

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111 not. Another adds that non il companies are very assertive tend to make land use decisions against the landowners wishes. Some mineral owning respondents ac tively try to trivialize the grievances of non mineral owners, seemingly ignoring the very real inequalities in the distribution of impact s and benefit s . human nature, jealousy and / or disappointment over money t hose who Similar to the appeal to human nature seen above, one respondent re aves vs. have nots always fight, doesn t matter what it is (land ownership vs. rental, water owner, etc. Others simply accept verybody gets over it. You have what you have! 50 t othing you can do about your neighbor s land. A few non mineral owners similarly rationalize that because this is just how mineral rights work, there is nothing to In my area landowners and farmers seem to understand the ownership and rights of mineral owners ut once we all learn that the mineral estate has precedence over the surface estate , everyone learns to work things out. For them, there is no reason to question the policy of pri oritizing mineral rights, it is simply the way things are. Only a few non mineral owners are explicitly critical of the legal structure and various contracts which govern surface/subsurface property relations in Colorado. As one farmer shares, 50

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112 I feel tha t the landowner or leasee should get any damage payments, since the mineral rights owner gets the royalties (emphasis added) payments actually go to the mineral owner as well. To me, these types of contra ctual arrangements seems objectively unfair. Another argues that the split estate is bad for agriculture because mineral often looking at oil money and not crop production. People who have kept mineral rights but sold land don't care any longer about land and make deals with oil companies , t would be great if mineral rights could not be separated from the land they are with . By my reading, it is difficult to refute the se critiques which question the very logic of mineral rights and their legal precedence . I expand on this problem in the Discussion section . Clearly then, the experiences of owning and non owning farmers are drastically different, as non owners often must co pe with a variety of surface impacts without fair compensation. These inequalities can create tensions or resentment towards mineral owners, as well as manifesting conflict with the well operators and their maintenance crews. These insights illuminate the micropolitics and problematic inequalities which can accompany energy development in agricultural regions , especially those where many mineral rights are detached. Moreover, we have tried to demonstrate that energy development can usually only benefit farm ers if they own the mineral themselves . Given that many farmers are not mineral owners, it is unfair to assume that energy development has predominantly positive impacts for agricultural communities.

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113 CHAPTER IV CONCLUDING STATEMENTS As is often the case in social science research, the results are complicated and difficult to refine into any conclusive analysis. As is clear through the survey anecdotes, the experiences of these landowners cannot be easily generalized; there are many va riables which shape an financial, historical, cultural, and environmental dynamics surrounding the issue are deeply affected by local context and individual idios yncrasies. This context dependency problematizes the sweeping portrayals found in the public debate (as well as vexing our own desire to provide definitive insights) and thus requires a more serious appreciation of ambiguity and nuance. But to leave the a nalysis at that would be both unsatisfying and misleading. In spite of the ambiguities and the lack of generalizable conclusions, the research nonetheless helps divulge some significant and under represented dynamics in rural Weld. For one, mineral royalti es can indeed produce dramatic improvements in farm businesses, and likely even contribute to large scale technological change in agriculture. We have shown that many farmers may not be in business any longer without the supplementary income from their min erals. Moreover, we have illustrated that royalties are implicated in historical and contemporary transitions in irrigation infrastructure, as well as an ongoing transition to high tech applications for resource conservation. Yet we have simultaneously de monstrated that the full range of complex impacts on the farm are not well represented in public discourse; these less spectacular environmental impacts

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114 are substantial but remain under appreciated. This project points to the need for systematic study of s oil compaction, local air quality, loss of farmable acreage, and safety hazards associated with oil and gas operations. Perhaps more importantly, we contend that the anti fracking movement would be more poignant (and more effective) if it could move beyond its infatuation with groundwater contamination for these farmers, groundwater is rarely the central concern, and the impacts of the wells are more subtle and variegated. By our reading, issues like silica pollution, ozone accumulation, and the loss or dam aging of agricultural soils should feature more prominently in the public critique of fracking. Despite the contamination and appropriation of agricultural water sometimes perpetrated by extraction companies in Weld, the value of mineral resources simulta neously helps farmers and ditch managers to conserve increasingly precious water in the irrigation network and despite the loss of farmable acreage and property value which follows drilling, royalty cash is nonetheless often necessary for financially tenuo us farms to survive or expand. These contradictions formulate a genuinely ambivalent landscape, where energy extraction has paradoxical implications that simultaneously threaten and sustain our food system. In this context, it is difficult to define the na tural gas boom as ultimately bad (or ultimately good) for farming communities in Weld County. However, if we look a bit deeper (or rather, look in another way), we uncover a very different narrative. It quickly becomes evident that a considerable proporti on of mineral estates are in fact owned by non farmers, and hence a substantial amount of total royalty money cannot

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115 be reinvested in agriculture. 51 While this is an important insight, our research indicates that the more crucial question might actually rev olve around surface tenure rather than mineral ownership. Our survey corroborates data from the Census of Agriculture which indicates that farm leasing is extremely common in Weld, which is to say that not only are many mineral owners not farmers, but many landowners are not farmers either. This tells us that even when the estate remains intact, the landowner may simply be a landlord with no farming business and little interest in technological investments. Therefore, split estates alone cannot be a relevan t proxy for regional patterns of royalty reinvestment in agriculture: whether or not energy royalties meaningfully benefit farm businesses on a wider scale ultimately depends on the allocation of surface property in relation to farming as well as subsurfac e property. Hence, the asymmetrical distribution of various property rights is absolutely paramount to the phenomenon of royalty receipt, and this cannot be overstated. If only a minority of landowners are both mineral owners and farmers, then only a frac tion of royalty revenue enters the agricultural industry at all. 52 Moreover, because at least 1/3 rd of actual farmers might not own to see how energy develop ment could positively benefit the agricultural community as a whole. Thus, we could say that royalties absolutely do benefit farmers as has been suggested, but only if that farmer happens to own the surface and the minerals of the land they farm here, the 51 While it is not possible to determine the total regional distribution of mineral ownership, our analysis implies that at least 1/4 and up to 1/2 of mineral claims in the county are split estates where royalties go to someone other than the landowner. 52 About 42% of surveyed landowners are the mineral owning farmers who would benefit from and reinvest royalty revenue a large minority, but a minority nonetheless.

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116 category. The distribution of mineral rights, combined with the prevalence of farm leasing, often prevents royalty to money from being invested in farming. In othe r words, too much cash goes to non farmers for energy royalties to have a widespread impact on investments in farming technology. Interestingly (and unfortunately), the experiences of those tenant farmers never appear in our survey. Because we identified and contacted our respondents through their formal property record, the tenants who do a large portion of the actual farming in Weld are left entirely absent. But for all 28 landlords surveyed, there are another 28 tenants hidden behind them with very diff erent experiences of energy extraction. These people form the invisible yet ever present and essential group of Weld County farmers who are seldom considered in research, policy, or public discourse. What should we make of these people, and what is their s tatus in this process? Are these modern many externalities while the benefits are accrued by others? Or are they indirect beneficiaries and participants in a set of largely po sitive, consensual, and symbiotic relationships? Where do they come from, and why do they stay? What do they believe, what have they seen? The next iteration of this research would seek out such tenant farmers and investigate their experiences, as they are crucial to fully explicating the complex political economy of energy leasing on farmland. The survey also makes us wonder if these dynamics will intensify in the coming decades: what will happen to these mineral estates when farmers begin to retire? The question of property is intrinsically tied up in inheritance patterns and the limits of the human life cycle, and as contemporary farmers die the distribution of minerals will become increasingly complex and

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117 differentiated. Even those farmers who own their minerals today will either sell them to the highest bidder or leave them to their children, many of whom are unlikely to continue farming. Moving forward, even more mineral rights will likely be transferred away from farming businesses. This raises signif icant questions about the future of mineral royalties in agriculture, and suggests that their influence will continue to diminish as that revenue is transferred to non farmers. A fragment of this process emerges through many of our survey anecdotes, but re quires closer attention in future research. Property is of course the root of all capital accumulation, and here we can see how the local surface and subsurface tenure system may concentrate mineral value in the hands of non farming and even non local property owners. The ability to sever the minera l estate obstructs the widespread reinvestment of royalty revenue in food production, as does the systematic renting of agricultural land by non farming landlords. Together these realities fundamentally compromise the idea that energy extraction is good fo r farm businesses. Indeed, this legal and economic framework which divorces ownership from productive labor consistently works to divert flows of value away from farmers. In this way, the research operates as a penetrating critique of not only the split e state and its implications, but of systems of agricultural rent which also detach farmers from the lucrative mineral value of the land they farm. It could also be interpreted as another compelling example of how the immense value of natural resources is to o often siphoned away from agricultural labor and away from rural communities to be accumulated by diverse actors elsewhere, in turn forestalling broader rural or agricultural development and perpetuating local/regional inequalities in access to resources and decision making power.

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118 We could thus conceptualize the royalty dynamic as a process of rural class formation, in which property rights create unequal allocation of capital and control, ultimately manifesting distinct social strata in Weld County. The assertion that energy development contributes to wider rural development blatantly ignores the profound socio economic differentiation of rural society, treating farmers as a single, homogenous class and assuming that they will be affected in more or less the same way. In this sense, the conventional pro energy narrative neglects to acknowledge the complex and absurd nature of capitalist property relations which is inevitably at the heart of the question. This deliberate oversight produces an at best incomp lete and at worst overtly dishonest image of how energy royalties are actually distributed in rural Colorado. Finally, it must be acknowledged that farmers only depend on mineral resources because their livelihoods are always and already so fragile this e ntire situation is itself the product of a food system which plainly fails to provide a decent income to the growers and agricultural laborers upon which it ultimately depends. In other words, the turbulent and highly concentrated political economy of food cannot help but wonder why her overhead costs consistently exceed the market value of her product , why the market appears structured to continuously undervalue her agricultural land and labor. We hypothesize that if these producers could make an adequate living on farming alone, their engagement with energy extraction would be palpably different. In t he final analysis, this research compels us to again interrogate the economic relationships which produce the vulnerability of so many American farming livelihoods to begin with.

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119 To conclude, this project illustrates how open ended inquiries that explore the personal experiences of local actors can contribute profound insights to misunderstood issues of broader public concern. The rhetoric which forms public debate around energy development on farmland is often misleading and not grounded in empirical rese arch. Not surprisingly, a more systematic analysis reveals myriad complexities and unexpected contradictions. While the full implications of the natural gas boom for Weld County farmers remain ambiguous and impossible to generalize, we have illuminated a v ariety of important dynamics which must be taken into account; these dynamics set the stage for further inquiries. Notably, we have hopefully demonstrated how straight forward social science research can provide practical empirical data on enigmatic social phenomena while simultaneously generating material for a broader critique of capitalist socio economic relationships.

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120 BIBLIOGRAPHY Barlett, Peggy F., ed. Agricultural decision making: Anthropological contributions to rural development . Academic Press, 2016. Barkley, Andrew, and Paul W. Barkley. Principles of agricultural economics . Routledge, 2013. Butz, Stephen. Energy and agriculture: Science, environment, and solutions . Nelson Education, 2014. Chavas, Jean Paul, David Hummels, and Bri an D. Wright. The Economics of Food Price Volatility . University of Chicago Press, 2014. Cramer, Gail L., Clarence W. Jensen, and Douglas D. Southgate Jr. Agricultural economics and agribusiness . No. Ed. 8. John Wiley and Sons, 2001. Finkel, Madelon L., e d. The Human and Environmental Impact of Fracking: How Fracturing Shale for Gas Affects Us and Our World: How Fracturing Shale for Gas Affects Us and Our World . ABC CLIO, 2015. Fisk, Jonathan M. The Fracking Debate: Intergovernmental Politics of the Oil and Gas Renaissance . Routledge, 2017. Holloway, Michael D., and Oliver Rudd. Fracking: the operations and environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing . John Wiley & Sons, 2013. Jacquet , J.B Energy Policy. Special Section: Past and Prospective Energy Transitions Insights from History, 50 (2012) 677 688. Just, Richard E., and Rulon D. Pope, eds. A c omprehensive assessment of the role of risk in US agriculture . Vol. 23. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013. Threat Impacts Surrounding Natural Social Currents , 1.3 (201 4) 293 311. Geography Compass. 8.10 (2014) 739 754. High Country News. 22 Feb. 2016. Malin, S. J. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. (2014) 4. 17.

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121 Measham , Thomas , Fleming, David, Schandl m H. impacts of unconventional fossil fuel extraction." Global Environmental Change , 36 (2016) 101. McCarthy, James. "First World political ecology: lessons from the Wise Use movement." Environment and planning A 34.7 ( 2002): 1281 1302. Newton, David E. Fracking: A Reference Handbook . ABC CLIO, 2015. Perreault, Tom, Gavin Bridge, and James McCarthy, eds. The Routledge handbook of political ecology . Routledge, 2015. Raimi, Daniel. The Fracking Debate: The Risks, Benefits, and Uncertainties of the Shale Revolution . Columbia University Press, 2017. Robbins, Paul. Political ecology: A critical introduction . Vol. 16. John Wiley & Sons, 2011. The Denver Post. 15 Feb 2015. Smith, Andrew F. Food in America: The past, present, and future of food, farming, and the family meal [3 volumes] . ABC CLIO, 2017. Westhoff, Patrick. The economics of food: how feeding and fueling the planet affects food prices . FT Press, 2010.

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122 APPENDIX A Review of Relevant Literature Farm Decision Making Processes Much research in rural sociology and behavioral economics has been dedicated to understanding how agricultural landowners rationalize and make decisions about resource use and investments. This background will help frame opportunity cost in the context of farming, and illuminate how farmers prioritize investments to navigate complex risks and opportunities (Sutherland, 2012; 2014). While none of this research deals directly with natural gas extraction, some notable publications explore royalties for wind tu rbines in Scotland and Canada (Adagha, 2015; Sutherland, 2014). Wind turbine development and associated royalties are increasingly common in Kansas and Eastern Colorado, and may have similar socio economic effects. However, there are nuances of natural ga s leases that are not present for wind turbine leases, such as the dramatic risks of contamination associated with hydraulic fracturing, as well as the complex legal status of subsurface mineral rights in Colorado. Much of the research not listed here deal s with off farm employment decisions, subsidies, and insurance purchases, which could interact with royalties. More immediately relevant are decisions to save and invest in resource conservation, set asides, and digital technologies (Akimowicz, 2016; Lambe rt, 2007; Daberkow, 2003). Daberkow in particular systematically explores the farm/farmer properties which are most conducive the technology infusions. Given the amount of research dedicated to farmer decision making, and given the potential significance o f royalties in this process, it is a little surprising that more literature does not address this relationship directly. Although the content of these papers only indirectly refers to my question, the methodologies deployed could be applied to my research. Akimowicz, Mikaël, Harry Cummings, and Karen Landman. "Green lights in the Greenbelt? A qualitative analysis of farm investment decision making in peri urban Southern Ontario." Land Use Policy 55 (2016): 24 36. Adagha, Ovo, Sheelagh Carpendale, and Richard M. Levy. "Decision support requirements for wind farm placement planning in Alberta." Journal of Decision Systems 24.2 (2015): 178 205. Ghadim, Amir K. Abadi, and David J. Pannell. "A conceptual framework of adoption of an agricultural innovation." Agricultural economics 21.2 (1999): 145 154.

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123 Sutherland, Lee Ann, et al. "Triggering change: towards a conceptualization of major change processes in farm decision making." Journal of environmental management. 104 (2012): 142 151. Sutherland, Lee Ann, an d Kirsty L. Holstead. "Future proofing the farm: On farm wind turbine development in farm business decision making." Land Use Policy 36 (2014): 102 112. Lambert, Dayton M., et al. "Profiles of US farm households adopting conservation compatible practices." Land Use Policy 24.1 (2007): 72 88. Daberkow, Stan G., and William D. McBride. "Farm and operator characteristics affecting the awareness and adoption of precision agriculture technologies in the US." Precision agriculture 4.2 (2003): 163 177. Rougoor, Ca rin W., et al. "How to define and study farmers' management capacity: theory and use in agricultural economics." Agricultural economics 18.3 (1998): 261 272. Gladwin, Christina H. "A theory of real life choice: Applications to agricultural decisions." Agri cultural decision making: Anthropological contributions to rural development (1980): 45 85. Cancian, Frank. "Risk and uncertainty in agricultural decision making." Agricultural decision making: Anthropological contributions to rural development (1980): 16 1 76. Willock, Joyce, et al. "Farmers' attitudes, objectives, behaviors, and personality traits: The Edinburgh study of decision making on farms." Journal of Vocational Behavior 54.1 (1999): 5 36. Edwards Jones, Gareth. "Modelling farmer decision making: c oncepts, progress and challenges." Animal science 82.6 (2006): 783 790. Öhlmér, Bo, Kent Olson, and Berndt Brehmer. "Understanding farmers' decision making processes and improving managerial assistance." Agricultural economics 18.3 (1998): 273 290. Local Perception of Risk The bulk of the existing research on farmers and natural gas leases deals with stakeholder perspectives, perceptions, concerns, and attitudes towards fracking. The literature attempts to assess ideas and opinions of local people effect ed by natural gas development. Most do not address agriculture in depth but all include agricultural landowners in their list of stakeholders. Certain surveys discuss attitudes towards royalties and economic development but do not describe specific implica tions of royalties for on farm decision making (Cotton, 2015; Heuerl, 2014; Jacquet, 2012) . Many emphasize health and safety concerns related to fracking

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124 contaminants rather than socio economic effects (Powers, 2015; Sangaramoorthya, 2016; Ladd, 2013); sti ll others discuss rural cultural change and migration. This research is important because changing socio environmental landscape, describing the diversity of conflict ing perspectives portrayal of ambivalent voices, pointing to a deep uncertainty and a tenuous or even reluctant acceptance of a complex network of ambiguous effects it is possible that this ambivalence highlights the risk opportunity dynamic of natural gas development (Ladd, 2015). However, others describe significant polarizatio n and conflicting convictions amongst different landowners, vehemently supporting or opposing development (Cotton, 2014). In this sense, the research illuminates different social and psychological dynamics involved in conceptualizing and negotiating risk a t the local level. This framework and precedent will be useful for exploring farmers concerns around the uncertainties of energy development. Further, because it consists primarily of surveys and interviews designed to capture community perspectives, there are methods and questions, which might be useful in designing my own surveys and semi structured interviews. Ladd , A.E. Threat Impacts Surrounding Social Currents , 1.3 (2014) 293 311. Ladd, A. E. S takeholder perceptions of socioenvironmental impacts from unconventional natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing in the H aynesville Journal of Rural Social Sciences, 28.2 (2013) 56 89. bas ed perceptions of the impacts of fracking along the Social Science & Medicine . 151 (2016) 27 37. Cotton , M method study of Environment and Planning, 47 (2015) 1944 1962. Heuerl , MA and Lee , Z.C . An Exploratory Analysis of Cross Sector Attitudes on Natural Gas Hydraulic Organization & Environment, 27.1 (2014) 25 42. Ramsaran D. , M. C Rousu. "Ex periencing the impact of Marcellus Shale: a case study" International Journal of Social Economics, 43.5 (2016) 517 531.

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125 Powers, M., Saberi, P., Pepino, R. et al. al, Health and Social Impacts Eaton, E., Kinchy A nonmobilization, and individual action in two extractive communities (Saskatchewan and Energy Research & Social Science, (2016). Jacquet , J.B. Energy Policy. Special Section: Past and Prospective Energy Transitions Insights from History, 50 (2012) 677 688. Journalistic Resources Journalists have contributed more to my specific question than any academic publications. There are a few articles in the Denver Post which explicitly acknowledge and explain how royalties increase the economic resiliency of farming households (Simpson, 2015, Aguilar, 2015). One in particular suggests, through anecdotal evidence, that many farmers in Colorado may invest in water conservation technology using the excess income. These resource s are also important because they contain many interviews with different farmers. While this perspectives around natural gas development. The interviews illustrate the varying implications of natural gas leases for different farms, and communicate a complex ambivalence around the associated risks and benefits. Many farmers explicitly claim that royalties are the reason their farm can continue to operate when commodit y prices are low; some imply that they pay for their In addition, the majority of the academic research focuses on the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsyl vania and New York, and the Haynesville formation in Louisiana. Research on fracking in the West tends to focalize public lands rather than farm leases, and there is comparatively little on fracking in Weld County in the academic literature. Therefore, the se journalistic resources are useful because they focus on farmers in Northern Colorado. High Country News. 22 Feb. 2016 . High Country News. 15 Dec. 2010

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126 High Country News. 23 Sep. 2015. The Denver Post. 15 Feb 2015. The Denver Post. 05 Mar 2015. The Denver Post, 15 Feb 2015. Critical Physical Geography This literature introduces a critical lens for analyzing and reconsidering simplistic claims provides a useful summary of existing social and physical research on fracking, comparing them and providing a synopsis of the fracking debate. The focus of critical physical geography is the infusion of physical and social science literature for a more ro bust and accurate description of environmental conflicts (Lave, 2014; 2014; 2015). Lave as well as McClintock emphasize the essential role of the physical sciences and scientific research in negotiating environmental conflicts, and suggest that physical sc ientists should be more engaged with the political dimensions of their research (McClintock, 2015). Notably, Lave suggests that certain claims made about the risks of hydraulic fracturing remain inconclusive in the formal scientific literature, and note th e substantial uncertainties which continue to characterize public and scientific discourse on the issue. While it is not directly applicable to this work, these publications provide a thorough literature review and important context for the myriad scientif ic, political, environmental and social considerations involved in the fracking debate. They also highlight the fundamental epistemological uncertainty and ambiguity involved in questions of technology and environmental policy this is relevant due to the i mportance of perceived risk in farmer decisions. Lave, R. Lutz , B Geography Compass. 8.10 (2014) 739 754. Lave, Rebecca, et al. "Intervention: Critical physical geography." The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien 58.1 (2014): 1 10. Lave, Rebecca. "Introduction to special issue on critical physical geography." (2015): 571 575.

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127 McClintock, Nathan. "A critical physical geography of urban so il contamination. Geoforum 65 (2015): 69 85. Anthropology Today 29.2 (2013): 13 17. Leases, Royalties, and Mineral Rights Unfortunately, very little academic research has dealt directly with the question of leases and r oyalties and their influence on agricultural practices. Many of the details of lease rates and conditions are not elaborated upon. Leases in which the landowner also owns subsurface rights may look substantially different than those in which the drilling f irms owns the mineral rights, and this needs to be explored for my research. In addition, horizontal drilling reduces the effect of drilling platforms on private land and probably entails varying lease conditions. It has been difficult to find academic res earch that pursues these legal nuances conditions may be particular to regions or localities. Nothing has directly discussed royalty income at the household level, although many authors allude to it as a generalized economic benefit. Vissing discusses the nuances of private lease negotiation, arguing that landowners who advocate for certain safety controls and environmental protections can effectively regulate otherwise unregulated extraction practices (Vissing, 2015). These negotiations could be of interes t to my research of royalties but do not directly inform my question. Malin claims that normalizing discourses in public dialogue and corporate rhetoric have created a social environment in which leasing expected (Malin, 2014). This provides context but co ntradicts my assertion that farmers may in fact be empowered to generate shifts in farming practice through royalty income. This is a topic I will have to pursue in greater detail, through public or corporate documents, anecdotes, and interviews in order t o better understanding the complexities of rights and leasing in Weld County. Agricultural And Resource Economics Review , 44.2 (2015 ) 120 137. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. (2014) 4. 17. Weber, Jeremy G., Jason P. Brown, and John Pender. "Rural wealth creation and emerging energy industries: lease and royalty payments to farm households and businesses. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Research Working Paper." No. RWP 7 (2013).

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128 Weber, Jeremy G., and Claudia Hitaj. "What can we le arn about shale gas development from land values? Opportunities, challenges, and evidence from Texas and Pennsylvania." Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 44.2 (2015): 40 58. Fracking and Agricultural Resources This section represents a sample of academic environmental impact studies for natural gas extraction, particularly in the context of agricultural resources. They are either specific studies of potential impacts or surveys of other studies on environmental contamination. They focus on the rel ationship between water and air pollution from natural gas wells and significant agricultural resources, highlighting potential risks of contamination of groundwater, surface water, soils, crops, and livestock (Ong, 2014; Pichtel, 2016; Farah, 2016). The l iterature notes the potential for groundwater contamination as wastewater is re injected into deep shale layers (which the EPA has formally acknowledged), as well as the risk of surface canal and soil contamination through spills and accidents on site and in transport (Burton, 2014; McLaughlin, 2016). Relevant literature also notes the potential for air pollutants to accumulate on crops and soils (Ong, 2014; Pichtel, 2016). While the EPA has formally acknowledged significant risks to water resources accompa nied by unregulated drilling, the full extent of these risks nonetheless remain scientifically uncertain. The literature also notes the relatively small amount of reliable, systematic studies on pollution of farmland from natural gas wells, and acknowledge s that more scientific evidence is needed to formally conclude the impacts of natural gas wells on farm productivity and long term resource sustainability (Lave, 2014; EPA, 2016). Farah (World Bank, 2016) concludes that while the possibility remains open, there is no conclusive evidence of systematic effects on land productivity. Nonetheless significant potential risks of contamination are recognized and outlined. This is important for the study because I am concerned with how farmers perceive and negotiate risk of environmental contamination. It is necessary to explore existing scientific research on the impact of chemical pollutants in order to understand the risk that farmers absorb when leasing. In addition, if it can be argued that fracking royalties ha ve some positive impacts on farming practices, we must simultaneously appreciate the potential negative implications for farm resources. European Journal of Sustainable Development , 3.3 (2014) 63 72. Applied and Environmental Soil Science (2016).

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129 Raton F L (2013). University of Calgary, World Bank Official Report (2016). concern? Environmental Toxicology and chemistry. 33.8 (2014) 1679 1689 McLaughlin, Molly C. Borch, Thomas and Blotevogel , Jens Fracturing Chemicals on Agricultural Topsoil: Biodegradation, Sorption, and Co Environ mental Science & Technology. 50.11 (2016) 6071 6078. Lave, Rebecca , Lutz , Brian Geography Compass. 8.10 (2014) 739 754. Allred, Brady W., et al. "Ecosystem services lost to oil and gas in North America." Science 348.6233 (2015): 401 402. US Environmental Protection Agency (Webpage https://www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing ) Economic Impact Studies There are many analyses of the socioeconomic impact of natural gas wells in rural areas. These are relevant for understanding how scholars, in particular economists and sociologists, have tried appreciate socioeconomic change during a local land use transi tion revolving around natural gas extraction (Measham, 2015). This can help us understand how monies and employment from natural gas extraction is infused into rural and mostly agricultural economies. Some this research focuses on generalized income and em ployment statistics at the regional or county level, attempting to describe generalized economic impacts in order to compare them to projected statistics published by oil and gas companies (Rousu, 2015). While this is of interest, it does not directly cons ider farm household decision making or royalty expenditure. Rousu as well as Measham and Hall note the general influence of lease revenue but does not pursue in any depth the ways in which royalties are invested amongst particular farmers (Measham, 2015; H all,2015). Some literature notes the limitations of regional and generalized accounts, and points to the lack of formal research on royalty revenue and individual farm decision making (Measham, 2015; Pender, 2014). Some research does note the potential of royalty income to buffer farms

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130 from volatile commodity prices or environmental uncertainty, however none suggest or illustrate that this income may be directly or indirectly invested in resource conservation. The methods for these analyses are fairly limi ted, ignoring finer scales, alternative metrics, or farmer perspective my research approach may be able to enhance and diversify the measurement of locally scaled socioeconomic implications of natural gas leases. Thomas G. Measham, David A. Fleming, Heinz socioeconomic impacts of unconventional fossil fuel extraction." Global Environmental Change , 36 (2016) 101. Creation Five Observatio Economic Development Quarterly , 28 .1 (2014) 73 86. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Working Paper (2013) 13 07. Doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati .(2015) n about Shale Gas Development from Land Values? Opportunities, Challenges, and Evidence from Texas and Agricultural and Resource Economics Review , (2015) 44.2, 40 58. Roddewig, Richard J., and Rebel A. Cole. "Real estate value impacts from f racking: industry response and proper analytical techniques." Real Estate Issues (2014) 6+. Rousu, M.C. et al. International Advanced Economic Research , 21 (2015) 213. First World Political Ecology Galt, Ryan E. "Placing food systems in first world political ecology: A review and research agenda." Geography Compass 7.9 (2013): 637 658. McCarthy, James. "First World political ecology: lessons from the Wise Use movement. " Environment and planning A 34.7 (2002): 1281 1302. McCarthy, J ames . First world political ecology: Directions and challenges. Environment and Planning A , 37 (6), (2005) : 953 9 58. of the rural American West." Progress in Human Geography 27.1 (2003): 7 24.

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131 Adkin, Laurie, ed. First world petro politics: the political ecology and governance of Alberta . University of Toronto Press, 2016. Robbins, Paul. "Obstacles to a First World political ecology? Looking near without looking up." Environment and planning A 34.8 (2002): 1509 1513. Schroeder, Richard A. "Debating the place of political ecology in the First World." Environment and Planning A 37.6 (2005): 1045 1048. Schroeder, Richard A., Kevin St Martin, and Katherine E. Albert. "Political ecology in North America: discovering the Third World within?." Geoforum 37.2 (2006): 163 168. Watts, M ichael . Political Ecology. In Sheppard, E. (Ed.) A companion to economic geography (pp. 257 276). Oxford , 2001. Robbins, Paul. Political ecology: A critical introduction . Vol. 16. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

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132 APPENDIX B Survey Materials ______________________________________________________________________________ To the Landowner: My name is Cody Peterson, and I am a student of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Colorado Denver. I am conducting a small research project regarding oil and gas leasing in Weld County, and am writing to request your participation in my research. While natural gas development in Weld has received a lot of attention in the news and attracted a fair amount of controversy, the perspectives of farmers in Weld County are still not well understood. It seems curious to me that so much resea rch has gone into hydraulic fracturing and the households who participate in energy development. Further, because a public database of mineral rights ownership d oes not exist, researchers are uncertain how common it is for farmers in Weld County to own the mineral rights to their land. The varying experiences of landowners of course depends on whether or not they own their mineral rights, and thus whether or not t hey receive direct royalties at all. Hence, this study is trying to establish exactly how many farmers in Weld County in fact receive direct royalties, and how many simply have surface use agreements without owning mineral rights or receiving royalties. M ore specifically, the survey explores the financial effects of those royalty payments for the farming households who do own their mineral rights, a question which few researchers have examined. As you probably understand, farming households often use royal ty payments to invest in

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133 their farm, enhance resource conservation, and reduce their financial vulnerability, ultimately protecting the sustainability of our local food system. Conversely, farmers who do not own mineral rights may accept certain environmen tal risks without receiving the same financial compensation this survey explores those different experiences. Thus, my research seeks to shed light on both the positive and negative experiences of farming households with energy development, with an emphas is on the potentially positive financial benefits of energy royalties for Colorado farms. In this packet is a simple 30 question survey regarding your experiences with energy extraction on your land. If you decide to participate, please answer the questio ns as honestly as possible and to the best of your knowledge. If you would prefer, an online version of this survey is available at the following link: https://ucdenver.co1.q ualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6J62sOxiKefEVSJ Otherwise, fill out the paper survey contained in this packet and mail it using the return envelope and address label provided in the packet. You may be wondering how and why you have been selected for this survey. Using a basic GIS analysis (with publicly downloadable parcel data from Weld County and energy well location data from COGCC), I was able to identify all agricultural parcels in Weld County which contain active oil or gas wells. From there, I randomly sel ected 500 addresses to send this survey. It is important to note that this survey will not be asking for any legal or quantifiable financial details whatsoever , nor for any formal documents such as bank statements, tax returns, titles, deeds, or any other official legal or financial information. The survey only asks for your general perspective and experiences with energy development on your land. It will ask general questions about how you may have spent some of your royalty payments (if you receive them) it will not however ask exactly how much money you receive in royalties or how much the items you purchased with that money cost. Requesting, analyzing, or publishing these sorts of financial details could endanger the basic rights to privacy of the partic ipant, and therefore are not part of this project. None of your personal information, including your name or address, will be made public or identifiable in the course of this research. Any participation in this project is of course

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134 completely voluntary, a nd you reserve the right to withdraw your participation or consent at any point in the course of the research. This project is specifically interested in farming households and active agricultural land. If you or your land are not currently or have not r ecently been engaged in agricultural production, please do not submit the survey, as most of the questions will not apply to you. However, if you are a landowner who does not personally farm the land, but who leases it to a farmer who does, please indicate this at the beginning of the survey and submit it. I am also looking for landowners interested in participating in a detailed interview for this same research. If you might be interested in speaking with me in more depth, please contact me at the email a ddress or phone number listed below. If you have any other comments, questions, or concerns regarding this project, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you are curious, below is a brief description of the research question which was formally approved by the University (CoMIRB Protocol # 17 1178): thus requires either royalty payments to or surface use agreements with the landowner. Whether or not a farmer rec eives direct royalty payments at all depends if s/he owns the subsurface or mineral rights, but exactly how many farmers own their subsurface rights is not well understood. Hence, this research seeks to provide insight into the distribution of mineral righ ts ownership by farmers in Weld livelihoods. Although hydraulic fracturing may involve some environmental risks, it can also infuse livelihoods. This additional cash flow may have positive effects on making process. It is possible that energy royalties could buffer farmers from chronic economic and environmental volatility due to low commodity prices, drought, and hail, and provide a financial safety net for vulnerable farms. It could also allow novel investment choices, such as resource conservation/precision agriculture technologies or college education, as well as encouraging f armers to leave land fallow for soil recovery. Conversely, farmers who do not own mineral rights to their land, often must accept drilling on their

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135 nuanc ed socio which claim it threatens agricultural land and livelihoods, as well as provide insight into both the positive and negative effects of energy development in agricultu Thank you sincerely for your consideration. Cody Peterson Dept. of Geography and Environmental Sciences University of Colorado Denver cody.peterson@ucdenver.edu 303/929/3147 General Questions 1. Is your land actively cultivated? a. Yes, my family and I farm it. b. Yes, but not by me I lease it to another person who farms it. c. No (if no, please do not complete or submit this survey). 2. When were the oil/natural gas wells on your land first drilled? ___________________(Month/Year) (if there are no active oil/gas wells on your land, please do not complete or submit this survey) 3. What crops do you grow on your farm? (Check all that apply) a. Corn b. Soy c. Alfalfa/Hay d. Wheat e. Vegetables f. Fruits g. Other________________________ 4. Generally, in your experience in the last 5 years, have commodity prices been a. High b. Low c. Average/medium

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136 d. Always changing/fluctuating 5. Do you own the mineral rights to your land and receive royalties from the extraction company? a. Yes (if Yes, please answer only Part 1, Questions 6 32) b. No (if No, please answer only Part 2, Questions 33 48) Part 1: Mineral Rights Owners____________ _________________________________ 6. When did you begin receiving energy royalties? __________________(Month/Year) 7. Would you say that these gas royalties have significantly affected your finances as a farming business? a. Yes b. No c. Not sure 8. If yes to Q4, please describe how energy royalties have affected your farming business. ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ _________________ __________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ________________________ 9. In your experience, does the amount of money you receive as royalties change or fluctuate? a. Yes b. No c. Not sure 10. In your experience, how frequently does the money you receive change or fluctuate? a. Very often b. Occasionally c. Not very often d. Never 11. Generally, what sorts of things have you spent your money from energy royalties on? a. Farm equipment b. Farm structures c. Irrigation technology d. College tuition e. Savings f. Debt repayment

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137 g. Leisure expenses (vacation, electronics, etc.) h. Other_________________________________ 12. Were these things purchased on credit (loan/debt) or with cash? a. Cash b. Loan/Credit c. Both 13. imagery analysis, moisture sensors, high tech tractors, etc.? a. Yes b. No 14. Are you familiar with this technology (do you know other farmers who use it?) a. Yes b. No c. I am familiar wit h it but don't know any others who use it 15. Have you ever considered purchasing or trying these technologies? a. Yes b. Maybe c. No 16. Why or why not? ___________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________ _________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ 17. In your opinion, do oil and gas royalties make precision technology more affordable for you or other average farmers? a. Yes b. Maybe c. No 18. Do you have a child in college, or who will soon go to college? a. Yes b. No 19. If yes, where? a. CSU b. UNC c. CU Boulder d. CU Denver/Metro e. Other_______________________________ 20. What does he/she study?

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138 a. Agricultural science/production b. Agricultural economics or business c. Environmental sciences (Chemistry, Biology, Ecology, Geology) d. Geography/GIS e. Other_______________________________ 21. Do your children have any intention of farming your land when they are older? a. Yes b. Maybe c. No 22. In your opinion, do oil and gas royalties make college education more affordable for farming households? a. Yes b. Maybe c. No 23. In your experience, have oil and gas royalties helped buffer your business financially from low commodity prices? a. Yes b. Sort of c. No 24. Has your farm or farming practice changed in any way since the wells were established? a. Yes b. No 25. If yes, how? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___ _________ 26. Are you more likely to leave land fallow for soil recovery or other purposes because you receive royalty payments? a. Yes b. No 27. In your opinion, is hydraulic fracturing a serious risk to agricultural resources like soil and water? a. Yes b. maybe c. No d. Not sure 28. Do you believe that the natural gas wells on your land pose any risk to your farming business? a. Yes

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139 b. Maybe c. No d. Not sure 29. If yes or maybe, what risk? ___________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________ ______________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ __________________ 30. In your experience, has energy development negatively impacted your land, business, or family? a. Yes b. No c. Not sure 31. If s o, how? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________ ____________________________________________ ________________________ 32. In your experience, is there any tension or disagreements between landowners who do own mineral rights and farmers who do not? a. Yes b. Maybe c. No d. Not sure 33. If so, why? Or if not, why not? ____ _______________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________ 34. Where do you tend to get information on hydraulic fracturing, like safety and environmental regulations? (check all that apply) a. The news media/internet (Source/website_______________________ ___________) b. Local friends/acquaintances c. Energy company partners d. Other__________________________________________

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140 Part 2: Non Mineral Rights Owners_________________________________________ 35. Do you have a Surface Use Agreement with the extraction company and/or mineral rights owner? a. Yes b. No c. Not sure 36. Generally, what does that Surface Use Agreement entail? (check all that apply) a. Guaranteed upfront financial compensation. b. Financial compensation in the event of a spill or accident. c. Restrictions on the placement of surface infrastructure. d. Restriction on the times and places where trucks can access your land. e. Measures to limit noise, dust, odors, or other impacts. f. Not sure g. Other________________________________________________________________ _____________ _______________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________ ____________________ 37. In your experience, has energy development negatively impacted your land, business, or family? a. Yes b. No c. Not sure 38. If so, how? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ __________________ _________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________ 39. In your experience, has energy development positively impacted your land, business, or family? a. Yes b. No c. Not sure 40. If so, how? ___________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ __________________ ___________________________________________________________________________

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141 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ _____________ ______________________________________________________________ ____________________________________ 41. Do you believe that the oil/gas wells on your land pose any risk to your farming business? a. Yes b. Maybe c. No d. Not sure 42. If yes or maybe, what risk? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________ ____________________________________________ ________________________ 43. In your opinion, is hydraulic fracturing a serious risk to agricultural resources like soil and water? a. Yes b. Maybe c. No d. Not sure 44. In your opinion, is energy development a good thing for farm ers and rural communities in Colorado? a. Yes b. Maybe c. No d. Not sure 45. Why or why not? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ _______________________ ____________________________________________________ __________________ 46. In your experience, is there any tension or disagreements between landowners who do own mineral rights and farmers who do not? a. Yes b. Maybe

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142 c. No d. Not sure 47. If so, why? Or if not, why not? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________ ____________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________ 48. Would your opinion about energy development on your land be different if you personally owned the mineral rights and received direct financial compensation? a. Yes b. Maybe c. No d. Not sure 49. If you did receive royalty payments, what sort of things would you spend the extra cash on? a. Farm equipment b. Farm structures c. Irrigation technology d. College tuition e. Savings f. Debt repaymen t g. Leisure expenses (vacation, electronics, etc.) h. Other_________________________________ 50. Where do you tend to get information on hydraulic fracturing, like safety and environmental regulations? (check all that apply) a. The news media/internet i. Source/website_ ______________________ b. Local friends/acquaintances c. Energy company partners d. Other_________________________________________