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Fire insurance reform coming to county wineries and agriculture businesses 

Insurance Commissioner Lara speaks at Booker Winery in Paso Robles at Farm Bureau event on June 14_2021[14090]

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara speaks at Booker Winery in Paso Robles at Farm Bureau event on June 14.

Wildfire insurance reforms to expand coverage, force insurers to recognize fire prevention efforts by property owners

– Fire insurance reform is coming to San Luis Obispo County wineries and other agriculture businesses. On Oct. 12, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued an order to the state’s “insurer of last resort,” the California FAIR Plan Association, to double the wildfire property insurance coverage limit for wineries and other farm or ranch businesses.

“This is a big deal for our agriculture community,” explained SLO County Farm Bureau Executive Director Brent Burchett. “When we brought Commissioner Lara to a Paso Robles winery back in June, we explained how the current coverage for agriculture businesses is grossly insufficient, and that insurers are failing to account for fire prevention efforts we’ve gone to great expense to employ on our farms, ranches and wineries.”

Lara announced Tuesday that he worked with California Farm Bureau members across the state over the past year to develop more comprehensive insurance reforms for ag and other rural businesses. Specifically, the order expands the maximum FAIR Plan policy limit from $4.5 million to $8.4 million, and requires insurance companies to incorporate property owners’ fire-prevention actions when rating their risk. Lara said, “Recognizing these ‘fire-hardening’ actions will provide incentives to property owners to protect their property against wildfires, reducing future losses and increasing a competitive market.” These reforms build on passage of Senate Bill 11 earlier this year, which made the agriculture industry eligible for FAIR Plan coverage for the first time.

The Department of Insurance also published never-before-seen data on the claims, losses, and non-renewals specifically for agriculture policyholders. Agriculture businesses in the Central Coast region experienced the second-highest wildfire losses in the state over the past four years, totaling $93 million from 2017-2020.

“There is no silver bullet to our fire insurance crisis, and the cost of these policies is still extremely high, but this is a major step forward,” Burchett said. “We want to thank Commissioner Lara for all his work, and all our Farm Bureau members who pushed for these changes.”

San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau has been advocating for local farmers and ranchers since 1922.

Learn more at slofarmbureau.org.

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.