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Audit Audit of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources

This audit of the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program calls on the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to provide greater clarity, predictability and transparency in the program.

Binder organization: Office of the State Auditor
Date published: August 22, 2018

Executive Summary

In accordance with Section 12 of Chapter 11 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Office of the State Auditor has conducted a performance audit of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) for the period July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2017. In this performance audit, we examined MDAR’s activities related to its administration of the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program.

Below is a summary of our findings and recommendations, with links to each page listed.

Finding 1
 

MDAR is not effectively monitoring the use of APR Program farmland.

Recommendation
 

MDAR should develop policies and procedures that require the annual monitoring of APR Program parcels. Depending on MDAR’s available resources, this could include such things as a combination of farm visits, telephone calls, email inquiries, and satellite tracking of farmland use.

Finding 2a
 

MDAR lacks an effective education component for current and potential APR Program participants.

Finding 2b
 

Transactions related to the sale of APR Program farmland lack sufficient farmer input and transparency.

Recommendations
 

  1. MDAR should seek the funding and other resources necessary to establish a formal training component that covers all aspects of the APR Program for both potential and current APR Program farmland owners. It should also review, and update as necessary, all APR Program information and documents to ensure that they are current and understandable and detail all aspects of the program, including different scenarios that could occur in the sale of property.
  2. MDAR should amend its guidelines to include when and under what conditions it will exercise its option to use the “Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value” provision and also to allow losing bidders to obtain information about why their bids were not accepted.
  3. The Agricultural Lands Preservation Committee should consider taking the measures necessary to allow APR Program farmland owners to appeal sales of their property that have been denied by MDAR.
  4. MDAR should take whatever measures it deems appropriate to address the issue of allowing a farmer to withdraw from the sale of an APR Program farmland parcel if MDAR assigns the option to purchase to someone other than the farmer’s preferred purchaser.

A PDF copy of the audit of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources is available here.  

List of Abbreviations

ACTA

Agricultural Conservation and Technical Assistance

ALE

Agricultural Land Easements

ALPC

Agricultural Lands Preservation Committee

APR

Agricultural Preservation Restriction

BMR

baseline monitoring report

CMR

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

COA

certificate of approval

EOEEA

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

MDAR

Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources

NRCS

Natural Resources Conservation Service

OPAV

Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value

ROFR

Right of First Refusal

USDA

United States Department of Agriculture

Contact

Phone

Fax

(617) 727-3014

Address

Massachusetts State House
Room 230
Boston, MA 02133

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