March 20, 2015

Farmers asked to unite to deal with wind companies

The Independent | March 19, 2015 |

Roger Buurma says it is time for farmers to work together when the wind energy companies come to town.

The Watford area farmer was one of about two-dozen people who crammed the Brooke-Alvinston Council Chambers when NextEra came to explain what it is planning for the Hardy Creek Wind Energy Center (see story on page 3).

After the meeting, a group of landowners and neighbours huddled on the front steps of the council chambers with Buurma to figure out they can do in the face of another multi-turbine project.

Buurma is concerned wind companies are using a divide and conquer approach to convince landowners to sign wind leases. “All the farmers I’ve talked to, even if they are opposed to wind turbines, say ‘if we have to look at it I might as well sign up.’ It’s all negative; they’re not in favour saying ‘I like it’ but rather they’re signing because of what I’ll call fear and greed.”

And Buurma says the wind companies play into that, telling farmers their neighbours have signed so they might as well get in on the action. “They are signing up hoping they will be one of the lucky ones saying ‘hopefully it will be on my property not his.’”

Buurma says in the 1970s, when Union Gas started laying pipeline through local farmers fields, the landowners formed an association to negotiate with the company. A number of other farmers in the region are advocating the same type of approach now that wind companies are eyeing southern Ontario again.

Buurma says the payout for land leases is about two per cent of the gross revenue from each turbine. With land prices doubling in the last few years, the Watford farmer thinks that is far too low.

“We would have negotiating power, and would have a say in what happened to turbines, how they are placed, where the laneways would go and (the wind centres) would all look a lot different,” he says.

“As farmers …we can decide on our own land we can say yes or no…there is nothing more powerful than farmers…and I believe we should be exercising that right.

“As farmers we’re so much more informed than we were five or ten years ago – we watched what happened to farmer to the north, we’ve seen what happened to their farms. Those agreements were negotiated so poorly they’re not doing much for the community nor are they doing much for the homeowner that are looking at them.”

And he’s very concerned about that. “The turbines are in their horizon and in their sunset and they’re not benefiting from them at all.”

Landowners, he says, are also concerned that dozens of turbines will change the landscape of the area forever and could have a negative impact on the economy as the cost of power continue to rise to pay for the lucrative wind energy contracts. “Ultimately, jobs will be lost.; it’s all one big loop.”

Buurma says a group of farmers is working together and plans to hold public meetings to find out what the community wants and if a negotiating group could be formed.

Until then, Buurma is hoping his neighbours will be patient. “We’re asking them not sign anything until they have more information,” he says.

“We want to have community discussions…We’re intelligent people, let’s make an informed decision not based on peer pressure.”

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