It is becoming tougher and tougher to acquire farm insurance in areas at risk of wildfire. With wildfires already popping up across California, producers are becoming more anxious as insurance companies are canceling or declining policies. Chalk Hill Ranch in Healdsburg is one of the many operations struggling to find adequate insurance coverage. The ranch suffered significant losses during the Kincade Fire. Since then, ranch owner Charlie Martin has run into a series of challenges in getting insurance coverage for the operation.
“As soon as I filed a claim with an insurance company that I had been doing business with for 40 years, I was canceled. They did pay the claim, but they canceled me and said, ‘no further insurance,’” said Martin. “I had one insurance broker who specialized in ranch and farm policies quote me a premium of $130,000 which is about five times what I was paying before I was canceled. That $130,000 premium actually didn’t give me the coverage that I had before and had higher deductibles. I’m still in the situation where I’m still looking for insurance.”
Chalk Hill Ranch consists of about 300 acres of cabernet and merlot vineyards. It is also home to a horse boarding and training operation of about 50 horses. Martin said that he has had little success with the Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan. After acquiring three farm policies through the FAIR Plan, two of the plans were canceled. “Their response was the cancellation was because two of the structures were farm housing and they weren’t considered primary residences. So, I wasn’t covered,” Martin explained.
The FAIR Plan did cover the farm manager’s house, however at about a 50 increase in premium and a higher deductible. As with many growers in the state, Martin said he will continue working to find adequate farm insurance for his operation.
“I hope our governor is successful enough to get the FAIR Plan or the insurance carriers to come to light,” Martin noted. “The fault of the claim was not me, it was PG&E. They have come out and said that they were 100 percent at fault at that. This is where I stand; not my fault and I’m out of business.”