Abbotsford Mayor George Peary has advised the Campbell administration to introduce stricter rules for pesticides stored in "groundwater protection zones." But, in an interview last week, the mayor explained that might not happen because of limited government resources, as well as resistance from farmers. As we reported last week, Mr. Peary made that recommendation after a fire destroyed an Abbotsford barn, raising concerns the pesticides stored inside may have tainted a near city water supply well.
Those concerns proved unfounded. Nevertheless, in a letter to Environment Minister Barry Penner the mayor also encouraged the province to review the inspection process used to ensure pesticides are being stored in accordance with British Columbia's existing laws.
But, speaking with Public Eye, Mr. Peary acknowledged, "Everybody has great expectations of the minister of environment but he's got limited resources as well. And if he's trying to regulate what's going on in the ministry of agriculture, I can imagine that's an interesting discussion. And, as sympathetic as he might be, I can't imagine the folks who are charged with looking after agriculture in our province are looking for more rules and regulations for their practitioners who are looking to make a buck in a tough industry."
"The dilemma from the ministry's perspective - and it's probably one we share a little bit - is agriculture, like all industries, is becoming increasingly regulated. So enforcement of regulation is an issue," he elaborated. "The farmers feel like nobody loves them - they buy everything at retail, they sell it at wholesale and pay the freight both ways. So they're not looking for another inspector out there saying you have to have a fireproof, cinderblock building or metal to store this material on your farms. And we don't have the enforcement staff either to enforce it" due to competing government spending priorities.