Today, Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) announced that his bipartisan Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of 2019 (H.R.830) was passed by the House Financial Services Committee, unanimously as part of a larger bill (H.R.3167) reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program through the end of fiscal year 2024.
The Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of 2019 (H.R.830), which Garamendi introduced with Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) in January, would provide farmers access to discounted rates under the National Flood Insurance Program. It would also lift the de facto federal prohibition on construction and repair of agricultural structures in high flood-risk areas designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Garamendi’s legislation (H.R.830) is now included in the House’s reauthorization (H.R.3167) of the National Flood Insurance Program, which awaits a vote by the full House of Representatives. The National Flood Insurance Program must be reauthorized before Friday, Sept. 30.
“Sacramento Valley families have been farming the floodplain for generations, and my bill with Congressman LaMalfa ensures that growers can get more affordable flood insurance that takes into account the levees they pay to maintain,” said Garamendi. “Our bipartisan bill will help keep agricultural land in production, which is the best way to push back against irresponsible subdivisions in the floodplain that place lives at risk and force farms onto the auction block. I thank my California colleague and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Maxine Waters for including my Flood Insurance for Farmers Act in her bill reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program.”
“Agriculture is one of the most beneficial uses for land in a floodplain, and the bill reintroduced by Reps. Garamendi and LaMalfa would help family farmers and ranchers address some of the challenges they face,” said Jamie Johansson, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation. Current requirements in the National Flood Insurance Program that may make sense for homes prove impractical and unnecessary when applied to farm buildings such as barns and equipment sheds. The Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of 2019 would allow for agricultural structure variances from floodproofing requirements and make flood insurance for farmers and ranchers more realistic and affordable.”
Under current law, areas across the nation which FEMA has designated “Special Flood Hazard Areas” require that all new, expanded, or repaired structures be raised above potential flood level. In much of the Sacramento Valley, this would require raising barns and silos upwards of 10 feet, which is cost prohibitive for farmers or simply inconsistent with continued agricultural land use. This effectively precludes many Sacramento Valley farmers from making capital improvements on their operations or securing the necessary financing.
The Flood Insurance for Farmers Act (H.R.830) would direct FEMA to develop a new flood mapping zone for basins in the Sacramento Valley and elsewhere protected by levees that do not currently meet the federally mandated 100-year level of flood protection. Rates under the National Flood Insurance Program in this new flood zone would be based on actuarial risk, meaning if levees provide a 50-year level of flood protection FEMA would charge rates based on that discounted risk level. Currently, FEMA assumes there is zero protection if a levee does not meet the federally mandated 100-year level of flood protection and charges full-cost National Flood Insurance Program rates.
The Flood Insurance for Farmers Act (H.R.830) is endorsed by the following organizations:
- USA Rice Federation
- California Rice Commission
- American Farm Bureau Federation
- California Farm Bureau Federation
- Sacramento County Farm Bureau
- Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau
- Yolo County Farm Bureau
- Colusa County Farm Bureau
- Solano County Farm Bureau
- Butte County Farm Bureau
- Tehama County Farm Bureau
- California Cattlemen’s Association
- National Milk Producers Federation
- Dairy Institute of California
- Sacramento County
- San Joaquin County
- Sutter County
- Butte County
- Yuba County
- California Central Valley Flood Association
- Northern California Water Association
- Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency
- Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District
- Reclamation District No. 1500