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Central Coast farmers and ranchers see an increase of insurance companies drop them due to wildfire risk

Posted at 3:56 AM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 06:56:12-04

California's growing wildfire risk has left an alarming number of people in the agriculture industry unable to buy insurance coverage to protect their businesses and homes.

Many farmers throughout California, including on the Central Coast, are feeling the impact.

Insurance companies are either dropping their coverage, or are not renewing their property insurance, citing the high risk of wildfire is too much of a liability.

Many insurance companies say it does not make financial sense to insure homes or businesses located in areas at high risk of burning.

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and the California Farm Bureau came together Monday at Booker Vineyard in Paso Robles to discuss fire insurance issues facing local farmers, ranchers, and agriculture businesses.

"After 22 years with Nationwide and its affiliates, my agent let me know that I would not be renewed. They're canceling a lot of people that are in fire-prone areas," said Anna Negranti, San Luis Obispo County rancher.

Negranti added she’s taken steps to mitigate the fire risk on her property, however, insurance companies are not taking that into consideration.

"They've taken those steps of having those defensible spaces, maybe making sure they have metal roofs on their barns or homes and still being denied, even though they've taken those steps that seem to say we are mitigating that risk when it comes to wildfire," said California Farm Bureau President, Jaime Johansson.

This issue has prompted Commissioner Lara and the Farm Bureau to support Senate Bill 11, which would allow access to the FAIR Plan, as the last resort for high-risk residential and commercial properties in California.

As of now, the law does not technically allow for farm properties to be insured under the FAIR Plan, something many want to see change.

"Currently, what we want to do is give them at least a quick alternative to not having insurance, which would be detrimental to their business so trying to move legislation to have the fair plan available to a lot of our AG land that currently does not have it," Lara said.

The end goal is use millions of dollars in the state budget to combat wildfires and reduce the risk.

"We are a part of a lot of working groups and organizations from Sacramento that continue to look for ways to lower that risk and to provide some certainty for the insurers to re-enter the marketplace when they feel like enough of the work or mitigation has been done to do it," Robert Spiegel with the California Farm Bureau said.

Lara added he's been talking with a number of insurers in the state to ensure the ability to find affordable coverage for businesses along with discounts for wineries and other businesses that implement proper fire risk mitigation measures.