A recent presentation to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture board by two HEAT (Huron East Against Turbines) members contributed towards a recent OFA position statement calling on the provincial government to “suspend the invasion of rural Ontario with industrial wind turbines.”
Mark Wales, OFA president, said in a phone interview last week that a power-point presentation by St. Columban farmer Tom Melady and his sister Jeanne is an example of what he’s been hearing from farmers across Southwestern Ontario.
“I don’t want to put a number on it but there are concerns people don’t feel are being addressed. We’re saying, ‘Let’s pause the process and get it right,’” said Wales.
The OFA position statement, written in response to the provincial FIT (Feed-in Tariff) review by the Ontario government now in progress, expresses concern about the price paid for wind power, setback issues, noise impacts, health concerns, the removal of municipal authority over planning for industrial wind turbines and the divisive effect of wind turbines on rural communities.
“Over the past few weeks we have clearly heard OFA members tell us of health concerns, concerns over the loss of farmland, encumbrances on their farm properties and many more issues related to the imposition of wind turbines across our rural landscape,” says a recent press release from Wales.
“Local directors for the OFA have been getting this message from farmers for some time now,” said Wales in the interview.
Tom Melady said that he and his sister Jeanne decided to approach the OFA board to complain about its December announcement supporting green energy.
“I thought one day that I’m an OFA member and I’m not in favour of the OFA’s position on green energy and I was hearing from farmers that they were not pleased,” he said, adding that he’s heard from farmers from Bruce, Essex, Peterborough, Prince Edward County and Ottawa about their difficulties with industrial wind turbines.
In December, the OFA released a statement saying, “Green energy remains a high priority for OFA. We will continue to take a strong stand, on behalf of our members, for viable options to support the production of green energy.”
“We asked the OFA to separate wind out from solar and biogas because there’s no community unrest from them. It’s not green energy but wind that causes the problems,” said Melady.
The Meladys’ power-point presentation pointed out that while they are in favour of safe and sustainable renewable energy and the closure of coal plants, they oppose wind turbines in rural communities and “people being driven from their homes or losing quality of life as a result of wind projects.”
The two asked the OFA board why the organization is promoting the Green Energy Act and the FIT program when “there are real problems with the regulations of the GEA and with its application in rural communities.”
“The OFA is an agricultural association and their principle interest should be in the production of food but now farmers are supposed to produce electricity and that is not right,” said Melady, asserting that at least 14,000 acres of prime farmland will be taken out of production because of industrial wind turbines.
The two asked the OFA to survey its members, county by county, to gather data on how they feel about industrial wind turbines, create a committee to talk to “victims of wind” and report the findings to the membership. As well, they asked the OFA board to revise its public statements to reflect the opinion of the majority of its membership and to demand a moratorium until a health study is completed.
“The OFA says it is the voice of the family farm but they were not expressing the voice of a large percentage of farm families on this issue,” said Melady adding that the most recent policy statement does represent a larger number of farmers who were getting ready to walk away from their membership.
“Now is the time to support the OFA when they come out with such a strong statement,” he said.
“OFA is telling the Ontario government our members have had enough. Rural Ontario cannot continue to be torn apart by wind turbines. The province needs to immediately suspend any further developments until our farm families and rural residents can be assured their interests are protected,” said Wales in his press release.
Wales said the recent OFA policy statement on industrial wind turbines is not a reversal of previous OFA policy.
“We are highlighting that there are problems that need to be addressed and that the rural community is too divided on this issue. The OFA has always been supportive of green energy but we have concerns about pricing and that affects every farmer with a hydro bill,” he said, adding that the provincial government has to “address health issues to people’s satisfaction.”
The OFA policy statement makes eight recommendations to the provincial government, asking for the suspension of FIT contracts until each issue is resolved. The recommendations include enabling an acceptable level of planning control for wind turbines at the municipal level, tying the prices paid for wind power to the expected price of peak power imports six years in the future, requiring wind turbine developments to provide dispatchable power using batteries or another form of storage, “immediately and fairly” addressing rural residents’ health and nuisance complaints, comprehensive analysis of adequate setback distances, developing and implementing a protocol to measure noise from wind turbine developments that include low frequency noise and providing measurement equipment and training to municipalities.