Sen. Napoleon Harris III

SPRINGFIELD – A measure that preserves insurance choices for rural farmers in Illinois is now law, thanks to State Senator Napoleon Harris, III.

Harris’ initiative – which was signed into law Friday – modernizes coverage requirements for farm mutual insurance companies to allow them to adapt to changes in the insurance marketplace and continue to provide coverage to farmers across Illinois.

“Illinois’ farmers drive our economy,” said Harris (D-Harvey). “It is important that we update the state’s provisions to allow these community insurance companies to keep their doors open and preserve choice in the insurance marketplace.”

Farm mutual insurance companies typically started off as small community-based organizations, but over time many have grown and began to offer insurance to more members in more diverse communities. Currently, there are 44 farm mutual companies that provide more than 50,000 policy holders with insurance coverage.

Harris, who started his legislative career as the Senate’s Agriculture Committee Chair, is now leading the Senate Insurance Committee. In this role, he saw the need to update this law to ensure farm mutual insurance companies have options while securing reinsurance contracts from larger insurance entities.

If action was not taken by Harris, the remaining farm mutual companies in Illinois could have been cut in half and thousands of farmers would be forced to find different insurance coverage. Proponents of this new law believe this will allow the insurance marketplace to correct itself and set appropriate coverage options and pricing for farm mutual insurance companies and its policy holders.

 Previously, Illinois was only one of five states that had not updated the law.

“If the state had not acted swiftly, we would have been eliminating choices for our smaller insurance companies and specifically for a large amount of farmers in our state,” said Harris. “We instituted this change for five years to provide small business owners with the support to provide farmers with suitable coverage. We will reevaluate in a few years to ensure we are, in fact, providing our agribusiness sector with the resources to continue to grow and be successful in Illinois.”

Senate Bill 765 passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support and goes into effect immediately.