Finding Insurance In Florida

Perhaps access to insurance has been the biggest detrimental long-term effect in the wake of the hurricanes that swept through Florida in 2004 and 2005. Insurance has been expensive and hard to come by for growers, and steps the state has taken to provide insurance to homeowners has made it even less desirable for private insurers to do business in Florida.

At the end of last year, Bruce Knox of Knox Nursery in Winter Garden, Fla., was exploring his options. “It’s expensive. We were looking at a 40 to 50 percent premium increase,” he said. “Independent insurance agents are 25 percent higher than last year. I’m thankful we built to the standard we did 10 years ago. If I didn’t have the structure I have, with 4-inch square tubing, it would be uninsurable. We’re built to withstand a 100 mph wind load rating. If we hadn’t, probably no one would insure us.”

Knox also is fortunate for being more inland. Growers on the coast may have no choice but the state-sponsored market of last resort, Citizens Insurance Company. To subsidize Citiens, the state is charging private insurance companies a 2 pedrcent surcharge on each premium in the state of Florida. On top of this, the state has enacted a rate freeze for private insurance companies doing business in Florida, making the market even less attractive.

“Citizens did offer a quote and was fairly expensive,” Knox said. “You have to decide as a business owner who you want to do business with. They (Citizens) are a state-run insurer and are insolvent. If all these people living on the coast are with Citizens and if there is a problem inland, Citizens will already be wiped out financially. What are the chances of collecting on the premium? It’s risky to be insured by them. They’re not going to want to pay anything and you’ll have to hire an attorney to collect the coverage paid by the premium.”

Greenhouse Grower’s Editor Delilah Onofrey also spoke with Peter Fornof, senior vice president of Hortica, about the situation. For her editorial on this subject, click here.

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