Ontario farmers who experience stray voltage on their property have some recourse thanks to the decades-long battle waged by Lee Montgomery, a former Dover Township farmer.
Montgomery, who was 88, died on May 15.
In the early 1970s, Montgomery was a successful and well-respected dairy farmer who started to notice health problems with his award-winning Holstein herd. It would be eight years before someone suggested that he investigate the possibility of stray current under his farm.
The impact of the stray voltage on the farm not only destroyed his prized herd, also claimed the life of his wife Donna, Montgomery said in a 2015 interview.
He never backed down in his battle to have the issue of stray voltage addressed. The ordeal included two costly court battles with provincial utility giant Hydro One, then known as Ontario Hydro.
“He was a lone wolf on this thing,” says former consultant and Kent agricultural representative Barry Fraser, who was among those who later worked with Montgomery on the issue.
Fraser said it turned out that Montgomery’s farm was in the “cross-hairs” of two hydro substations causing the issue.
One substation was removed, but Montgomery said in an interview it came six months after his herd was removed.
But he continued to wage his 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 led to 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, according to his obituary.
Today, farmers experiencing stray voltage, have an advocate with the Stray Voltage-Uncontrolled Electricity Agriculture Working Group. It’s 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. The herd’s superior genetics were used to upgrade other herds in Ontario, and Montgomery also shipped 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.
Montgomery was also the first Canadian breeder to ship Holstein cows to the Isle of Man, to Italy and to other nations, according to his obituary.
Montgomery left high school to return to the family farm, due to his father’s health concerns. He began managing a dairy herd at age 16. By 17, he was elected as a member of the Kent County Holstein Club.
His obituary said he received the Master Breeder Shield in 1971 at age 37, making him the youngest ever named at that time.
“Lee had a lot of respect in the dairy industry,” Fraser said.