OFA’s switch on wind power sends a chill

By JIM MERRIAM, Sudbury Star
When it came to government relations, Ontario’s largest farm organization, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), often seemed to adopt the philosophy “go along to get along.” Certainly, at times, the OFA found itself in conflict with the provincial government, but it was civil conflict. One example involved the introduction of the Clean Water Act in 2006.

“Ontario farmers saw mixed blessings in the proclamation of Ontario’s Clean Water Act … they saw elements of the act that would protect agriculture from a repeat of anything like the Walkerton drinking water disaster, but were anxious about the government’s failure to fund the improvements required of agriculture. OFA encouraged farmers to become involved in the Source Protection Committees as a means of protecting agriculture’s interests.”

In other words, don’t be trapped on the outside looking in. Work within the system. Another example further illustrates the organization’s tactics.

“Early in 2007, OFA participated in the Premier’s Summit on Agri-Food and gave its full support to the vision of growth and innovation for the industry that emerged as the key focus.”

With this hail-fellow-well-met approach to politicians and government, the OFA has accomplished a lot of incremental improvements for agriculture, but they have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

So, shock waves must have rippled through that tiny corner of Queen’s Park that still cares about rural Ontario when the federation took a new stand on wind turbine developments. Here’s some of the language from the OFA statement: “The situation regarding Industrial Wind Turbines (IWT) has become untenable. The proliferation of wind turbines across rural Ontario has seriously polarized our rural communities.

“Residents not engaged in turbine developments have been pitted against neighbours, over concerns with health impacts and quality of life issues. IWT development currently preoccupies the rural agenda.”

No kidding. The federation goes on to say, “wind power is a costly means of generation as its output is most often sold at a loss on export markets.” The OFA made a number of recommendations to the province, including many that wind turbine opponents have been making for months.

Although late to the table, one recommendation said, “rural residents’ health and nuisance complaints must be immediately and fairly addressed.”

That’s a sea change for an organization that wears its political connections as a badge of honour, proud of being “very involved during and after (election) campaigns.”

Besides a big step out of character, the OFA position also is a reversal of previous policy. Back in ’07, the 38,000-member organization seemed to welcome wind turbines. A report of the time says, “with the guidance of OFA, Ontario agriculture s move into the production of energy — growing numbers of wind turbines on farms for the production of electric energy …”

That’s back in the day when Queen’s Park was touting wind turbines as another revenue stream to help farmers.

The OFA, established in 1936, boasts on its website that for 75 years it “has been a leader in results-based advocacy and lobbying to work toward a sustainable future for farmers.”

I wonder if that traditionally friendly voice will have any impact on the debate about wind turbines that is tearing up rural Ontario.

27 thoughts on “OFA’s switch on wind power sends a chill

  1. “I wonder if that traditionally friendly voice will have any impact on the debate about wind turbines that is tearing up rural Ontario.”


  2. OFA – a powerful lobby group – now –
    down-graded to ‘Rabid Dog’.

    …..looking for Liberal ‘Fat Cat’s @ Queens Park.

    p.s. Does your pet’s breath smell?

  3. I do respect that the OFA at least has acknowledged victims of industrial wind. One of the first organizations that has done so. It’s time for more medical professionals to start calling for an in depth investigation for our citizens health.

      • Further to my comment:
        The OFA – a powerful lobby group –
        pushed and promoted ‘the dangerous’ –
        and why should they be given a pass?

  4. I think that one of the key points here is that yes I do think
    when first talks of wind energy was happening in my area,
    we wanted to “be green” and sure why not help the cause.
    But we never really had a chance to see what was really coming
    Our way. We certainly didnt think the gov. would allow the wind
    Farms To blanket our countrysides with hundreds of turbines and
    The rules on the entire environment thrown out and made to only
    Benefit them.
    Also siting so close to homes and schools never crossed our minds
    They were supposed to be out in the great wide open, just like their
    Pics showed. And then the size! Nowhere did I ever even see the
    Likes of the monsters their setting to put up now! 504′ and up!
    Thats 50 stories high! That wasnt something we ever thought would
    Happen. Sheer size and placement and numbers and yes speed of
    Progress are all alarming. I dont think the OFA also ever expected
    This to be happening to the farmland and communities they help
    Protect. They had no choice but to get on board and slow down
    This insanity, clearly we cant rely on some city boy telling the rural
    Community that he knows best.

  5. K – you are certainly correct that the extent and size of the wind turbine build-out has been a surprise to a lot of people. The problem I’m having is that we’ve been trying to educate a lot of people about the reality of what the wind turbine build-out involved, and mostly we’ve been vilified and ridiculed, dismissed as “anti-wind cranks”. Why in the world would so many people take the word of the industry and government (who stand to profit), and not the word of their neighbors (who don’t)?

  6. Because the industry has prayed on the sense of guilt that most people have for not doing all that they could to protect mother nature. IWTs are (were) perceived as an easy way out.

    It’s always been our job to educate the public about the unrecognized costs (health, environmental, democratic, and financial), and also about the over-stated benefits, because we know that if there were some truth to the cost-benefit analysis, most would choose against IWTs.

    Personally, I’ve always felt that victims deserved more attention. Thankfully the scientific discourse is finally at the point where we can finally give the victims (some) justice. So, where are the heroes?

  7. OFA supported wind when crop prices were low and farmers were desperate (it was after all the farmers who voted for the pro wind resolutions!) but…now that farmers are making lots of money on high crop prices, the turbines aren’t as appealing anymore so now they vote against it.
    What will happen when crop prices fall again??

    • IWTs infringe on neighbours property rights, have health,safety and economic issues that were unknown when first presented to farmers as a solution for keeping farmers in business.
      The situation is different now.

      • On top of this,there are all the environmental damages caused by installing IWTs in Ontario!
        Who the heck do these IWT developers and politicians think they are that they can do these things to rural Ontarians and get away with this?

  8. Considering the reasons the OFA gave for it’s current position statement, it would pretty much impossible for them to change their opinion in the future, without losing ALL credibility.

    If we only appreciated the help given by those who have always been on our side, how could we ever expect to gain any ground? I think some people are being too hard on the OFA for their past positions. Let’s not forget that if we rejected all those who supported wind turbines in the past, much of this community would not exist…

    To me, the big test is to watch how strongly the OFA pushes this new position of their’s. Let’s encourage them to use their voices loudly, and accept nothing less.

    • Arran-Elderslie is supporting OFA’s position and they are asking for the other municipalities that supported a moratorium to do likewise. You can also show your support by voting YES on the http://www.ofa.on.ca/ site poll. It appears all the proponents, developers, and possibly government GEA MOE workers are also showing up to vote no.

  9. I have been dismayed from the start, by OFA position on industrialization of crop lands, To me their number one priority should have been opposition to removal of any acreage to IWTs. They seem to have been suckered by the Orwellian terminology of “wind farm”. A farm is for growing crops and nuturing animals, not for harvesting government subsidies. I am glad of the change of heart, but this should have been their position in the first place.

  10. I know many a farmer in my area that totally regrets having signed up, but its well known there is no outs in these horrible contracts! I’m very sick of the wind farms neglect to our environment period. I happen to think very highly of what woods, streams, wetlands, farmland etc. we have.

    The wind farms have been given the green light to dismiss any rules and regulations the ABCA has to protect our lands. I’ve myself was contacted by a rep that wants to put an access road straight through a highly sensitive area of wetlands, and when I questioned him about the rules, his God like manner told me that he never had any issues by ANY ministry, conservation authority, or MOE, before. Like I said they know they have a golden ticket pass by the government and NO one can touch them.

    I have contacted many different authorities pertaining to my situation, only to be put back on the hamster wheel of replies A to B to C back to A to ……???? even they don’t have the answers, they can only tell you the same thing, “since the green energy bill passed…..” mouths taped, hands tied.

    I don’t know very much about the whole bio field studies, I’ve only seen a few articles, but this is what frustrates me most about the green energy plan.They have only chosen one renewable energy, wind, to go forward with and boy are they ever. From what I read why are they not looking into what the other bio fuels can do? The one article I read (bare with me) was about one type of grass that is planted and grown for 15 years in one field, only needing to be harvested when the time comes and used for bio fuel. From what I understood wow, no more planting, seed costs, fert. cost, spraying, and fuel costs savings would be enormous for 15yrs. Now that sounded more GREEN to me.
    Like I said I’m new to the idea, but why not let the farmers and OFA look into all this with more studies instead of using all the money on wind energy only. You know the old
    saying “all your eggs in one basket”! seems like a very stupid idea by the gov. to me.

    • There may be a way out of contracts if the developer did not inform the landowner of the distance considered to be safe from IWTs.Verbal information provided may not hold up in court if there was intent to deceive. Just telling people IWTS are safe is not enough.

  11. K, if the gov’t truly was interested in renewable energy Essex Landfill would have a contract to make energy out of the methane gas they are just flaring off. It’s truly a waste of energy, but no! The wind industry has all the space on the grid tied up, thanks to the former minister of energy DUNCAN, good buddy to them.

    • Can you get photos of the gas flaring off? But this is better than letting the gas escape into the air and maybe cause an explosion. Unused gas could also seep through the ground for quite a distance and enter buildings. Natural gas has no odor so is difficult to detect it unless an odor substance has been added to the gas.

  12. Yes – let’s thank the OFA for finally taking this stance. However, we will never forget the chances they have had for several years now to take action. Key members of their organization have been informed time and time again about the harm being done, but the OFA held hands with the OSEA and was a partner in the Green Energy Act. What about all the unnecessary victims of wind? How different could this situation have been if the OFA had done its homework like many of us did 3, 4, 5 years ago? How much suffering could have been avoided?

  13. Come on people. OFA will never admit it, but they were hoodwinked, fooled into thinking IWT’s were the way to go. They have likely realized for some time the error in their thinking. BUT how do you as a farm org. then suddenly reverse that?! It took balls for them to do what they did – to come out as strongly as they have. Could/should it have been sooner? Likely. Could/should their stance be even stronger? Likely. But cut them some slack and embrace their new position instead of loading them with more criticism, negatives and such. They are already receiving that from the farmers who do have signed leases and only want the $$$ and to hell with the rest of the folks, just look at the comments on some of the sites.

    Comments of support will help much more than crapping all over them.

    OFA survives on membership fees. They will likely lose a bunch of $$$$$ due to the fact that pro wind guys will possibly not renew. They would have also faced that scenario had they NOT enforced their stance on wind, as the farmers who oppose wind would have not renewed their membership with them. You only need to go the the OFA website with it’s 120 comments or so to see the dilemma they are in. They are absolutely in a NO WIN SITUATION. But at least try to work with them.

    I will likely get slammed for these comments too. Don’t bother. I am already on your side. Go to another site and criticize the very obvious pro-wind folks. Remember I too was offered a lease, but did not take it. So think about that before you decide to diss me. And no, I don’t think I am special for doing that – but I did say NO to $$$$$, and the way farming can be sometimes the extra $$$$$ sure would come in handy.

    • Thanks, read all the comments and those who favour hosting IWTs never mentioned the safety issues involved in operating IWTs.
      If the 400 meter radius unsafe zone for IWTs when operating distance is applied then that means 400 meters from any turbine to the property line and not from your neighbour’s house applies. Otherwise those operating IWTs have infringed on their neighbours’ property rights. People have a right to the safe enjoyment of all their property and not just to some of their property. With the larger/taller IWTs coming into use it would be an even greated setback from property lines. Fire departments say 500 meters in case of an accident resulting in flying debris with the size of the present IWTs.Same applies to road right-of -ways that the public has a right to use safely. Land
      severence rights are an added issue in this situation.

  14. Thanks Petra
    I believe your position is very well thought out and logical. It makes perfect sense, considering the O.F.A.s predicament.
    I for one, will cut them some slack, even though I was quite upset & mistified, by their support of IWTs & the Lying Liberals, during the fall election campaign.
    I find myself wondering though, if that position had more to do with their previously ‘Liberal’ president/council, even though Mr. Whales was vice-president at the time? Or was it strictly a member driven opinion, which has now smartened up / educated to the truth about IWTs?
    Either way, it`s definately welcome.

  15. Despite the support of OFA for the GEA, the Liberals were wiped out in rural Ont., so you really have to question their relevance. McGuinty has no need for their support now, he has 4 years barring a change of attitude by the NDP, to build as many turbines as possible. He is unlikely to run again, so he can focus soley on a legacy; only financial bond rating companies stand in his way now.
    He has ignored the 70 or so municipalities passing anti-wind resolutions as he will the OFA.
    OFA has no influence in Toronto McGuinty’s power base and ideas centre. It looks very much like the OFA is sensing where the crowd is headed and scrambling to get in front, rather than providing leadership for rural Ont.

    • This leaves the NDP in the position of propping up the Liberal IWT agenda which will likey cost them rural seats in the next election.
      Can the NDP afford to be viewed as in favour of removing peoples’ property rights,ignoring IWT safety issues, making some ill and reducing other peoples’ property values?
      The NDP showed that they are in favour of doing these things on Dec.1,2011.

  16. Mcguinty also promised a farm subsidy program (developed by the OFA) that was designed to fail from the beginning.
    This is why: The province would shore up 40% and the feds pay 60% should the price of corn or soys drop below a certain level. Mcguinty must have known that Harper would not go along with this ( Harper working together with a liberal?). It did get the OFA on board for a while though and made Harper look like the bad guy. Now the OFA probably realize they’ve been duped (the subsidy program went sour) so it’s payback time!!
    Welcome to Queens Park folks!!!

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