A farmer working agricultural land in Delta. B.C.'s top government watchdog has renewed his call for action to better protect farmland.

Foot-dragging on farmland fixes: Auditor

'Negligible progress' on steps to protect ALR

Little to no action has been taken in the year since B.C.’s Auditor General red-flagged a series of big holes in the Agricultural Land Commission’s ability to protect farmland.

Auditor General John Doyle’s original report in the fall of 2010 contained nine recommendations, some of them urging the ALC to fix inaccurate maps of Agricultural Land Reserve boundaries and tighten enforcement against those who degrade farmland.

The commission’s budget has been cut 30 per cent since 2002 and the audit had found the agency is underfunded and understaffed to carry out much of its duties.

But in a new follow-up report, Doyle scolds the inaction over the past year.

Nothing has been done with five recommendations and the rest are only partly implemented.

“I am disappointed that the ALC has made negligible progress,” he said in the report.

The ALC tabled a new strategic vision for the future last November but the proposed new directions are stalled in Victoria because the provincial government has yet to make any decisions.

On all nine of the original recommendations, Doyle’s report says the ALC is “awaiting direction from government.”

The commission is seeking increased funding for several initiatives.

The future food-growing productivity of the ALR continues to be damaged by illegal activity such as the dumping of construction material and tainted fill on farmland.

Doyle previously found the ALC too often gives violators written or verbal warnings instead of issuing orders or fines because it can’t afford to defend tougher measures if they’re challenged in court.

The Lower Mainland has lost eight per cent of its ALR land since the reserve was created in 1973.

Delta South independent MLA Vicki Huntington noted agriculture minister Don McRae said back in May cabinet would review the ALC’s financial needs.

“The Agricultural Land Commission is hobbled, without the resources required to safeguard British Columbia’s indispensable farmland, threatened daily by illegal dumping and development,” Huntington said. “It’s time for the ministry to take action.”

ABOVE: Auditor General John Doyle.

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