On October 12, California insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara announced key fixes to winery, vineyard, and farm insurance policies of agricultural businesses that were locked out of commercial insurance coverage after an onslaught of wildfires across the state in the past few years.
The announcement quickly followed the passing of Senate Bill (SB) 11, which requires insurers to include in their pricing measures that property owners were using to prevent or reduce losses. Lara spoke at a lemon orchard in Southern California—which was already unironically burned in a wildfire—while meeting with the California Farm Bureau Federation.
“While wildfires can happen in many agricultural regions of the state, some parts of our state have borne the brunt of devastating fires starting in 2017,” said Lara, according to a news release.
“With a tighter insurance market due to wildfire risks, many farmers and vintners need more coverage than they can currently get. I am taking aggressive action to protect our farmers, vintners, and other businesses immediately while local government, state government, insurers and businesses all work together to reduce the wildfire risk and increase a competitive insurance market.”
Ryan Klobas, CEO of Napa County Farm Bureau, is a key proponent of SB 11, calling Lara’s announcement of the key fixes “good news.”
California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson commended Lara’s actions.
“This isn’t just talk,” Johansson said. “It’s moving forward with conviction to address the challenges facing agriculture and collaborating on solutions. This action plan comes out of his meetings across the state where he has heard directly from our members. He sees the problems clearly, and he is working with the California Farm Bureau to address them.”
Lara’s announcement included the following points:
- The FAIR Plan would amend its plan of operation to increase its coverage limit for commercial property within 30 days
- The current policy limit, which is currently $4.5 million, has not changed since 1997. The limit for the plan’s businessowner’s policy has been the same since 1994, resting at $3.6 million. The consumer price index in California has nearly doubled since then.
- SB 11 requires the Department of Insurance staff to expedite their review of the FAIR Plan’s agricultural filing that came October 6
- A virtual workshop, set for November 11 at 1:00 p.m., will held to discuss the proposed regulations around requiring insurance companies to incorporate the fire-prevention actions of communities and businesses when evaluating risk
Additionally, Lara called for a $20 million prescribed fire liability pilot project to cover liability for controlled burns, something currently not covered by carriers admitted to the California market, the Department of Insurance said.