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Wildfire insurance legislation heads to the governor

Issue Date: July 14, 2021
By Kevin Hecteman

A bill that would allow California's insurer of last resort to write policies for California farms and ranches cleared the Legislature last week and awaits the governor's signature.

The California Farm Bureau sponsored Senate Bill 11, which allows farm buildings and equipment to be covered under the California FAIR Plan.

FAIR, or Fair Access to Insurance Requirements, is a state program that acts as insurer of last resort when no other coverage is available. Previously, only private residences were eligible for the program.

Jamie Johansson, president of California Farm Bureau, hailed the bill's unanimous approval in the Assembly and Senate. The bill would take effect immediately upon being signed.

"With the passage of Senate Bill 11, California's farmers and ranchers are one step closer to having a property insurance option of last resort," Johansson said. "California's FAIR Plan provides added protection for those farmers and ranchers who have found their insurance policies canceled or not renewed.

"Given the current wildfire challenges facing California, our agricultural community is fearful of what may happen this year," he added. "We have already faced significant wildfire losses, and so too have our rural communities."

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara undertook a listening tour in concert with California Farm Bureau and county Farm Bureaus in areas devastated by wildfires in recent years. In a May 23 visit to a Calistoga winery that lost a warehouse to a wildfire last year, farmers and ranchers from Napa and Sonoma counties explained that their insurance policies were not being renewed, and that new coverage was difficult if not impossible to obtain—and what was available was prohibitively expensive.

Once SB 11 becomes law, the FAIR Plan has 90 days to submit insurance forms, guidelines and rates to the California Department of Insurance for approval. The FAIR Plan and the department have been developing a farm policy framework, and Farm Bureau said it believes coverage may be available by the end of the year.

The bill was authored by Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park.

"We thank Sen. Rubio for championing this legislation to protect California's farmers and ranchers," Johansson said. "It's critical that Gov. Newsom signs the legislation and supports the efforts of the agricultural community, insurance companies and California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to find a viable solution."

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




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