Time for facts, not fear!

Original post via Lucknow Sentinel.

To the Editor:

A recent letter to the editor in our local papers suggested that the South Bruce council “no longer deems agriculture an important part of the SB economy.”

I certainly cannot speak for the South Bruce council but consider that statement totally false and misleading! Agriculture certainly has been and will continue to be a major economic driver for South Bruce. However, production agriculture has changed dramatically in the past several years and has replaced a significant amount of labour with technology.

Growing up on a farm in the ’50s/’60s basically every 100 acre farm property was a viable farm operation supporting the family residing on it. We still certainly have lots of 100-acre farm operations, but most are either very specialized production or/and have significant off farm income.

However most “full time” farm operations have expanded significantly over that last several years in acreage and/or livestock numbers and have adopted technology and machine efficiency to operate much larger livestock and/or crop operations with limited additional labour requirements.

This ongoing change in agriculture production certainly has a profound effect on rural communities. Definitely the South Bruce situation with a 25% reduction in the under 44 age group in the past few years is a serious concern. If you look at the 2016 Ontario census results in comparison to the previous 2006 census there was an approximate 20% drop in number of farms across Ontario with basically the same number of acres farmed and same livestock numbers. Also, very interesting information from that census was that “total capital value” of farm assets in that same 10-year period increased by close to 200%.! That likely plays into that 10% property tax increase!

The continuing reduction in numbers of our younger population has and will continue to have major negative impact on South Bruce. Most of our schools are on the short list for possible closure due to declining numbers. Sorry but our increasing “over 60” age group can’t do much to help that problem! Our small towns continue to struggle to maintain their main street businesses.

It is certainly positive to see Kinectrics establish in town and see the expansion at Gaylea but we need to continue to pursue more business attraction opportunities that have potential for long term career opportunities. Certainly, the DGR project has major job creation potential.

Our area has already had a very positive experience with the nuclear industry!! Bruce Power, although not locating within our municipality boundaries has been a great corporate supporter. It employees a significant number of SB residents with well paid jobs and supports many of our fund raising and community events. It has been operating just up the road for 50 years, has put millions of dollars in wages, donations, etc. into South Bruce. In those 50 years it also has an impeccable safety record. Maybe it is worth at least researching and considering another nuclear partner in South Bruce!

At this point we still have a lot to learn about the suitability of the proposed South Bruce site for the DGR. There are still a couple of years of site analysis work to establish if it meets the long list of safety requirements. Also, still a lot of research and consultation required on the infrastructure required to support the facility. I would challenge at this time that no one should have a definite “yes or no” for the project but it is time to take a serious look at the possible project and learn about it. As in agriculture the technology of DGR design has changed dramatically in a fairly short period of time. As in agriculture if I suggested 40 years ago the tractors would steer themselves; cows would milk themselves, and that you could adjust fertilizer rates by the inch you would have likely said that I was dreaming but those technologies are all common place now. Yes, there are some horror stories about nuclear waste storages designed and built several years ago but like agriculture the technology in the nuclear industry has advanced dramatically.

It’s time to concentrate on learning and discussing the actual proposed project and constructively discuss the concerns and opportunities. Obviously Covid has made the information transfer difficult but we have time!

Time to concentrate on facts and less on fears!

Please note that any opinions expressed in this article are my own and not necessarily representative of any organization that I am affiliated with.

Les Nichols

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