By Connor Lynch
THURLOW — A Prince Edward County sweet corn grower has been awarded $8,000 in damages after a dispute over his use of bird bangers got ugly at a farm practices board.
The ruling came down from the Ontario Normal Farm Practices Board in April. Robert Smith, who farms 25 acres of sweet corn, started using propane-powered cannons, called bird bangers, in 2013 to scare off birds that were eating sweet corn.
He ended up being brought before the board in March last year by a number of neighbours, one of whom was his first cousin, who said that the constant noise was disrupting their lives, causing them stress, and preventing them from enjoying their properties. Some of them also said that the use of the bird bangers had devalued their properties.
The board ruled in December last year that Smith’s use of the bird bangers was not a normal farm practice, but would be with some modifications. That included warning his neighbours 72 hours in advance of using them within 175 metres of a house and only using them between July 5 and September 25. Smith was also required to keep a record of every time he uses a bird banger. But that wasn’t good enough for Smith’s neighbours, who speculated that he would not abide by the conditions imposed by the board.
The board recoiled at the thought of predicting one’s future behaviour. “This was in bad faith,” the board said in its April ruling. “The board considers that the misguided attempt to malign the character of Robert Smith was unnecessary and spiteful.”
But the paralegal representing Smith’s neighbours, Trudie E. Robertson, went even further by saying that Smith had a criminal conviction “totally unrelated to the subject matter of the hearing” and made the false allegation that “the criminal conviction was of a nature that is morally reprehensible,” the board stated.