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A Fruitful Century
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Crop Insurance

A fruitful century

Two variables govern the uncertainty of a farmer’s livelihood. One is the unreliability of price; and the other is the unreliability of crop. The dangers of crop loss had been, to a certain degree, mitigated for B.C. orchardists by the creation of the Fruit Growers’ Mutual Hail Insurance Company, but there were more threats to fruit crops besides hail.

In 1959, Parliament passed a Crop Insurance Act which allowed the federal government to assist provinces in setting up crop insurance by making direct contributions towards the costs of facilitating such schemes. The B.C.F.G.A. was the first section of agriculture in British Columbia to request crop insurance: the Executive first started discussions with the provincial Department of Agriculture on the matter in 1961, but it took several years and repeated initiatives to get action and make crop insurance a matter of urgency. “The ’64 freeze, that howling wind from the north, brought things more into focus. . . . The time had come to do something other than to just take these risks as they came at us.” But arrangements took time, and it was not until the 1967 season that a Crop Insurance Scheme was available to growers. The first scheme had some features which made it less attractive to growers than it might have been, with a low limit on coverage. But the following year revisions, including the change to a production guarantee system and expansion of optional coverage to such hazards as off-crop, fruit set failure, and uncontrollable drought, made the plan generally acceptable. Even so, the scheme was not universally accepted; in its first year of operation only 337 growers took out crop insurance contracts, and even by 1971, fewer than five hundred participated.