Farmers experiencing stray voltage on their farms today have some recourse to address it thanks to the decades-long battle waged by Lee Montgomery, who has passed away at age 88.
In the early 1970s, the successful and well-respected Dover Township dairy farmer began noticing issues with his award-winning Holstein herd, eight years before someone suggested he investigate the possibility of stray current under his farm, Montgomery told The Chatham Daily News during an interview in the summer of 2015.
The impact of the stray voltage on his farm not only destroyed his prized herd, he said it also claimed the life of his wife Donna.
Montgomery never backed down in his battle to have the issue of stray voltage addressed, which included two costly court battles with provincial utility giant Hydro One, then known as Ontario Hydro.
“He was a lone wolf on this thing,” said former consultant and Kent agricultural representative Barry Fraser, who is among those who later worked with Montgomery on the issue.
He said it turned out Montgomery’s farm was in the “cross-hairs” of two hydro substations that was causing the issue.
One substation was removed, but Montgomery told The Daily News it came six months after his herd was removed.
However, I continued the fight.
“He was just like a bloody dog on a bone,” Fraser said of Montgomery’s persistence to have stray voltage recognized as a real problem.
Noting Montgomery was angry about the situation, Fraser said, “Lee did a lot of missionary work. He was well connected with the dairy industry in Ontario, that’s where the major problems are.”
Montgomery’s lobbying efforts helped achieve the October 2006 Private Members’ Bill 143 “Ground Current Pollution Act,” the eventual Minister of Energy announcement of the Order in Council to the Ontario Energy Board in June 2007 and the Ontario Energy Board’s facilitation efforts in on-farm stray voltage consultations in August 2007, stated his obituary.
Today, farmers experiencing stray voltage, have an advocate with the Stray Voltage-Uncontrolled Electricity Agriculture Working Group, which is a coalition of members from Farm & Food Care, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, interested farmers, electrical experts, and consultants.
Prior to stray voltage drastically impacting his life, Montgomery was recognized for the quality of his dairy herd, which was used to upgrade other herds in the province. His prized herd also enabled him to ship Holstein cows to the United States, England and Spain, according to the biography of his induction into the Kent Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1997.
He was also the first Canadian breeder to ship his Holstein cows to the Isle of Man, Italy as well as other countries, added his obituary.
Montgomery left high school to return to the family farm, due to his father’s health concerns, and began managing a dairy herd at 16. By age 17, he was elected as a member of the Kent County Holstein Club.
His obituary states he received the Master Breeder Shield in 1971 at the age of 37, making him the youngest ever named at that time.
“Lee had a lot of respect in the dairy industry,” Fraser said.
Montgomery died on May 15 and his funeral was held last Friday.