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Insurance coverage will be available starting February 1st for farm owners, wineries, and other outdoor businesses previously ineligible  

East County News Service

January 21, 2022 (Sacramento) -- Acting to address the growing needs for a competitive insurance market for farm owners, wineries, ranchers and other outdoor agricultural businesses, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara today approved the FAIR Plan to offer new commercial coverage for farm structure risks starting February 1, 2022. The FAIR Plan is an association made up of all admitted insurance companies to be the state’s property “insurer of last resort.”

“Agriculture is critical to our continued economic recovery. That’s why when leaders in this sector first shared their challenges in getting insurance coverage, we listened. We worked with Senator Rubio, Legislative leaders and the Governor to pass SB 11 to help address these issues,” said Commissioner Lara. “The Department of Insurance is changing how the FAIR Plan operates as part of a broader solution to help protect these businesses, especially those vulnerable to climate-intensified wildfires.”

Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of Senate Bill 11 authored by Senator Susan Rubio, the State Legislature and the California Department of Insurance have urged the FAIR Plan to act as promptly as possible. Not wanting to add to the FAIR Plan’s delays, the Department, in its approval letter, noted some additional commercial coverage issues overall that the FAIR Plan must resolve at a later date as the Department reviews the FAIR Plan’s entire commercial property insurance program in the months ahead to ensure it truly “takes all comers.”

SB 11 was signed into law on July 23, 2021. It builds on Commissioner Lara’s efforts to give Californians more insurance coverage, particularly in high wildfire risk areas of the state. 

In 2019, Commissioner Lara ordered the FAIR Plan to begin offering more comprehensive coverage to homeowners including an expansion of coverage for liability, theft, contents, and other parts of a traditional homeowner’s policy. Last year, a judge upheld the Commissioner’s authority to order the FAIR Plan to offer this new expansion of coverage. On November 19, 2021, Commissioner Lara amended the Plan of Operations for the FAIR Plan to increase its combined coverage limits, under its Division I Commercial Property Program, from $4.5 million to $8.4 million and, under its Division II Businessowners Program, from $3.6 million to $7.2 million.

“Helping consumers hurt by devastating wildfires has been my top priority as Chair of the Senate Insurance Committee,” said Senator Susan Rubio, author of SB 11. “I am happy to see the Department of Insurance implement legislation I passed to protect California farmers and their workers.” 

California’s farmers, ranchers, and vintners, among other agricultural businesses, live and work in more rural, outlying areas that may be especially vulnerable to wildfires. This makes having more and better options for insurance coverage critical to these businesses’ ability to operate and thrive in their communities. Department of Insurance data shows that some agricultural businesses have been left without coverage by insurance companies.

“This approval means California’s FAIR Plan can do its job and add much-needed protection for those farmers and ranchers that have found their insurance policies canceled or non-renewed. Given the current wildfire challenges facing California, our agricultural community is fearful of what may happen this year without this additional coverage,” said Jamie Johansson, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation. “We thank Commissioner Lara for supporting and expediting this new coverage and Senator Rubio for championing this legislation to protect California’s farmers and ranchers. We know that we have a leader in Commissioner Lara to get things done and look forward to continuing to partner with him on long-term coverage solutions for California’s agricultural community.”

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