MASC's history is heavily aligned with Manitoba's agricultural producers. Centuries before the arrival of European settlers, the Indigenous peoples of Manitoba had vast knowledge of the land and as such grew a variety of crops including corn, amaranth, beans, and squash in different regions throughout the province.
As the Selkirk Settlers arrived in 1812, they were Manitoba’s first agricultural immigrants bringing with them 12 Merino sheep and some seeds from Scotland. The Red River colony, from an agricultural perspective, wasn’t all that successful, but it spurred faraway farmers to dream of a better life. By 1831, more than 2,150 acres were in cultivation; 25 years later, it was 8,371 acres and Manitoba agriculture was supporting over a thousand settled farm families. By autumn of 1876, Manitoba produced its first wheat surplus.
Even then, farming was hindered by the many natural perils of Manitoba. Frost, grasshoppers, and flooding often took crops and livelihoods, even as the tiny settlements grew and the Dominion Lands Act (Canada) brought thousands more settlers from around the world. New early maturing varieties of wheat like Marquis made frost less of a problem, but varietal differences still couldn't prevent the swarms of grasshoppers, disease, the floods, the hail-heavy thunderclouds, or the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Prior to 1938, crop insurance was a risky business for all involved, with most attempts failing due to lack of information, market fluctuations, overwhelming environmental conditions, and other related factors. In 1939, the Manitoba Crop Insurance Committee was appointed to investigate the feasibility of crop insurance in the province. That year Parliament passed the Prairie Farm Assistance Act (Canada), which provided basic crop insurance. Farmers were charged 1% on deliveries and could collect $2.50 per acre on half their acreage when yields dropped below 5 bushels per acre.
Introduction of Crop Insurance
By the 1950s, Manitoba producers had grown dissatisfied with the PFAA program, having paid in $5 million more than they'd received in claims. In July 1959, the Government of Canada passed the Crop Insurance Act (Canada), which provided the necessary backing for the Manitoba Legislature's Crop Insurance Test Areas Act and the birth of the Crop Insurance Agency (forerunner of the Manitoba Crop Insurance Corporation (MCIC)).
Meanwhile, the face of agriculture in Manitoba was changing. Farms were growing larger, mainly due to increased mechanization and the use of fertilizers and pesticides. As yields increased and machinery grew larger, so did start-up and input costs - as did the need for agricultural lending programs.
The risks associated with agriculture, however, had already bitten Manitoba's traditional financial institutions. The Farm Loans Act (Manitoba) (introduced in 1917 and administered by the Farm Loans Board) provided long-term mortgages at low rates of interest with guarantees from the Provincial Treasury. Unfortunately, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl fell heavily on both private and governmental enterprises. The Federal Farm Loans Board assumed the burden of agricultural debt, but the provincial Farm Loans Board suffered heavy losses from uncollectible debt and was eventually liquidated.
As a result, long-term credit was generally unavailable, especially to young and beginning farmers, save for non-traditional sources like the Veteran's Land Act (Canada) , family members, and the Industrial Development Bank.
To fill the void, the Manitoba Agricultural Credit Corporation (MACC) was established in 1958 to provide credit facilities for farmers, help producers obtain credit, and assist in the development of farms in Manitoba.
Amalgamation to MASC
MCIC and MACC remained as separate entities until 2005, when it was determined Manitoba's agricultural producers and rural businesses could be better served by merging the two entities into a single corporation. On September 1, 2005, the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) was created.
Today, MASC is represented throughout the province by 10 ARD and MASC Service Centres, supported by roughly 160 part-time adjustors and 150 full-time staff of insurance specialists, loan specialists, administrative staff, researchers, programmers, analysts, and more.
The short history of MASC reflects the vision inherited from MCIC and MACC - to assist in building a strong rural economy with successful farms and businesses.