Many San Diego County farmers are struggling to obtain fire insurance

Written by Joey Brasil

With the rise in risk for brush fires near farms in San Diego County, many farmers have been unable to obtain fire insurance for their farms. 

The agriculture industry in San Diego County, worth almost $1.8 billion, is greatly threatened by this. With climate change and the state’s poor forest management policies presenting higher risks for fires that could wipe out farms, insurance companies are hesitant to step in, to say the least. 

A local resident in Alpine, Nathan Rakov, fears that he will not be able to recover his farm if he is not able to secure insurance before the next fire. For many years, he has been insured by the FAIR plan, a policy for people that are consistently denied insurance. The only reason the plan has covered his farm for so long is due to the necessity to abide by California law. 

However, when he tried to add a $60,000 tractor to the policy, he was rejected and received a letter that farms are not eligible for the FAIR plan.

“We’d like to think that the system is going to work and they’re going to come up with ways to give us credit for doing mitigation,” Rakov said. “For the most part, insurance companies have just redlined certain ZIP codes, so I don’t have high hopes for the future.”

The adversity farmers have faced has led many of them to take matters into their own hands, such as clearing brush surrounding land. 

On the other hand, insurance companies have faced enormous losses due to consistent fires. Insurance policies in fire hot spots as a whole have faced a “tightening in the market,” per Jeremy Merz, vice president of state government affairs at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association. 

The fire that erupted near Alpine last September caused a total of $1.58 million in damage to agricultural lands. On top of that, the fire destroyed 30 homes and burned 16,390 acres of land. 

As a result of the fire and not having insurance, Rakov lost many buildings and grow rooms that he couldn’t protect. Without a solution for farmers in fire-prone areas to insure their properties, the consequences will continue to be as devastating as they were for Rakov.