California Is Giving Vineyards That Can't Obtain Wildfire Insurance Another Option

But in the midst of an ongoing fire season, the help may not come in time for some wineries and farms.

The wildfires that have plagued California over the past several years — some of the largest and most devastating in state history — were huge news. But what hasn't garnered as much media attention is the difficulty farmers and vineyard owners have faced attempting to obtain wildfire insurance in the aftermath. The increased prevalence of fires also implies increased risk, and so some agricultural property owners have seen their premiums become prohibitively expensive — if they are able to get insurance at all.

But last week, California took a step towards remedying the problem: Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 11. The legislation amends the California Insurance Code to allow agricultural properties — which were previously excluded — to receive property insurance under the state-mandated California FAIR Plan, which describes itself as providing "basic fire insurance coverage for high-risk properties when traditional insurance companies will not." As such, the coverage isn't necessarily as comprehensive as some owners would prefer — not covering things like crops — but at the very least, it allows them to show proof of insurance when applying for loans.

California vineyards affected by wildfire smoke
Samuel Corum / AFP via Getty Images

"This legislative victory is the culmination of months of hard work led by the Farm Bureau," Ryan Klobas, chief executive officer of the Napa County Farm Bureau, stated. "This is a first step that will now allow agricultural properties in Napa Valley and throughout California to access basic property insurance for wildfire coverage."

However, as Modern Farmer explains, Californians struggling to find insurance are not out of the woods yet: Due to further bureaucratic steps, the insurance won't be available until at least October, and the state is still in the midst of wildfire season, leaving some potentially nerve-racking months ahead. "Even though SB-11 has passed, even though the governor has signed it, and even though, someday, that insurance will be available to add stakeholders, it's not available today," Tawny Tesconi, executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, told the site. "So, there are some folks out there that are kind of caught in this lame duck period."

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