California Wildfire Farm Protection Bill Sent to Governor’s Desk for Final Approval

According to a press release issued by California state Sen. Susan Rubio’s (D) office, the state legislature has passed a bill she authored that would help shield farms otherwise unable to insure themselves due to cataclysmic wildfires. Senate Bill 11 would reportedly amend existing insurance law to allow farmers and ranchers to obtain coverage of last resort.

The bill passed the state senate last Thursday with unanimous, bipartisan support, the news release said. Furthermore, the legislature added an urgency clause, making the bill effective the moment Governor Gavin Newsom signs it, should he choose to.

Sen. Rubio’s press release explained that wildfire losses have continued to make insurance in the private market harder to find and purchase. The bill would help farmers and growers obtain the insurance they need to remain in business, particularly because they often cannot access loans, plant crops, or pay workers as uninsured entities.

Specifically, the bill amends an existing California insurance law, the Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan, which serves as a coverage of last resort for most businesses, but not farms. SB 11 would allow the FAIR Plan to sell commercial coverage to farms, ensuring that “permanent structures used primarily for the production of commercial agricultural commodities or livestock are eligible for basic property insurance.” 

The changes align with the core purpose of the 1968-established FAIR Plan, to guarantee the availability of basic property insurance to all Californians, the press release commented. In addition, the urgency clause reportedly directs the FAIR Plan to immediately complete and submit a rate filing offering this coverage to the California Department of Insurance.

Jamie Johansson, President of the non-profit California Farm Bureau Federation, thanked the senator and commented on the bill’s progress in a statement. Johansson concluded by urging Governor Newsom to sign the bill and support stakeholder efforts to find a meaningful solution.

“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,” he said. “California’s FAIR Plan provides added protection for those farmers and ranchers that have found their insurance policies cancelled or non-renewed. Given the current wildfire challenges facing California, our agricultural community is fearful of what may happen this year,” Johansson said.