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Storm claims create woes for Farm Bureau

Approximately 250 members gathered at the annual meeting of the Halifax County Farm Bureau Tuesday evening. The event featured Darlene Wells, executive vice president and general manager of the Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance Company, as guest speaker.

Wells spoke to Farm Bureau members about the struggle the insurance company has had in regaining its surplus after dealing with excessive storms over the past couple of years. 

“In 2011 and 2012, we were hit with multiple tornadoes and windstorms that cost us to pay out more than $75 million on top of what we would normally pay in clams,” said Wells. 

On average, the company pays approximately $150 million in everyday claims. That additional $75 million “affected our financial condition rather significantly.” 

This caused the company to step back and see what they can do differently to help scale back. 

 “You’ve seen some of the results of that. We are not able to write as much to the home owner business as in years past, and we reduced the amount of property business we had on our books,” Wells said.

She listed three main ways to ensure they will replace the surplus of $75 million and create a more financially strong company. 

The first is making sure “rates are really the right rates for the rest” they are insuring. 

“When we are looking at what our future costs are going to be, we just need to make sure we are charging the right rates for those potential losses,” said Wells. 

Secondly, the company needs to manage their future loss potential. 

“We are in the business of taking risks, but when our surplus has been hit like it has been, we have to think about our savings. We have to think about how much risk we can take on until we can build back our surplus,” said Wells. 

The final way is for the company to manage its operating expenses. Two of the ways they have done this is by reducing staff and reducing advertising costs. 

 “I feel as long as we continue to focus on lowering our expenses, that will eventually translate into lower costs for our members,” said Wells. 

Wells said the insurance company hopes to replenish its surplus by about $8 to $10 million by the end of the year, and she is confident they are taking the right measures to replenish and grow to be a better company. 

The two candidates running for Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Tracey Quackenbush Martin and Michael Freshour, each spoke during the meeting Tuesday night, both encouraging guests to vote for them. 

Martin told guests she is “proud to be a Farm Bureau member” and has been for about 12 years.

As the first of the speakers, Martin told those in the audience, “I believe in hard work, a culture of respect for non-lawyers in the case, and in swift justice. I will bring to you my work ethic, my budgeting skills and my office management skills,” said Martin. “I offer you my experience, my hard work, dedication to justice, and with the heart of a community servant I ask for your vote Nov. 5.” 

Freshour thanked the Farm Bureau for the opportunity to speak and joked that keeping his speech brief would be the first campaign promise that he would keep.

 “Since I took over last August, I’ve increased prosecutions by 43 percent, reduced plea agreements, and I’ve made the office more aggressive. What I want to do is simple. It’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve taken office,” said Freshour. “It’s a very important position, and it’s a position that someone with experience needs to handle. I think we are getting good results, and I’d appreciate your vote come Nov. 5.” 

In other business Tuesday night, Farm Bureau members adopted nine resolutions. 

The first two resolutions opposed uranium mining in the state and supported the continuation of the current moratorium on the mining and milling of uranium.

The resolutions also opposed any tax on capital gains and supported cutting the tax rate on capital gains as well as indexing capital gains to inflation. 

Other resolutions included opposing the proposed open-visa and three-tier pay scale to the H2A program, introduction or reintroduction into Virginia any plant, insect or animal species that adversely affects agricultural enterprises. 

Members also adopted a resolution urging Halifax County Board of Supervisors immediately to resume the application process for agriculture and forestry districts in Halifax County.

Special recognitions also were presented to Tom West, Thomas Burton and Bruce Pearce for their years of service to the Halifax Farm Bureau Board of Directors. 

The Farm Bureau membership also reviewed the financial statement for Jan. 1 through Aug. 31 Tuesday night. 

According to the statement, total year to date income is at $35,008.20, and year-to-date expenses are at $28,646.05. Savings as of Aug. 31 have increased to $286,745.86.  

 Also during Tuesday night’s meeting, members heard the women’s committee report and nominating committee report.