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CROP INSURANCE IN ACTION: Art Wiebelhaus, Fordyce, Nebraska

August 2014

People hear a lot about crop insurance and the fact that U.S. farmers spend $4 billion out of their own pockets to purchase it every year.   One of the greatest praises of our modern crop insurance system is the customer service that farmers receive before, but perhaps more importantly after, they have a loss.   For some farmers, the hours after a major farm disaster can seem like the lowest point in their lives, when their careers seem to be upended and their hopes for a big harvest dashed.

But quickly after a major loss occurs, crop insurance adjusters are on the scene to meet with the farmers assess the damage.  The crop insurance adjusters are one of the unsung heroes of the farm safety net, since they help ensure that when disaster strikes that help – in the form of a crop insurance indemnity check – is on the way.

Before ever climbing in the truck, crop adjusters are already on the phone making business calls, watching the weather forecast, reading the rain gauge, and checking in with their clients. They spend long days in the office and even longer days out on the road. Right beside the farmer as they walk through their fields, these men and women are at the very heart of why crop insurance is successful.

Art Wiebelhaus is one person in particular who exemplifies just what it takes to be a crop adjuster. He recognizes the commitment crop production takes, the need crop insurance fulfills, and the lifestyle agriculture holds. From his understandings, Art utilizes a dynamic relationship between crop insurance, farming, community, and family.

While he has been a crop adjuster for just six years, Art has been a farmer his whole life. As a third generation farmer, “I know what they are going through and what their worries are. I’m a farmer too,” commiserates Art. Imagine waking up one day to your life’s work destroyed by events beyond your control–producers must carry around this possibility (and lump in their throat) every day. It is an adjuster’s job to provide farmers with the aid they seek from crop insurance.

As producers dread the day when they must make a claim, Art is still able to make light of the situation. He laughs, “It seems that when it rains, it just keeps raining, and when it’s dry, it just stays dry.”

Growing up on the same place he now farms, Art has seen crop insurance grow around his own sleepy little town of Fordyce, Nebraska, “A while back I remember meeting one gentleman who didn’t have crop insurance, and that’s because there wasn’t a policy that really worked for his operation. Of course now, with improvements and changes to crop insurance, he has coverage. And today, I can’t name one person who doesn’t have crop insurance.”

“With current prices, farmers have to have crop insurance to stay in business,” points out Art. The loss of just one year can be so catastrophic that an operation cannot financially come back from it. Keeping a farmer’s “head above water” means another year that he is able to meet the demands of food production.

This is where the importance of an adjuster comes into play. They make the loss calculations for every insured field based upon scientific procedures. From these adjustments, it is determined how crop insurance policies can pay.  Creating a tie to the producer, adjusters work with their clients to provide assessments that will have a positive impact on the operation’s future.

Along with this, crop adjusters must be conscientious of their actions in order for this process to be successful. For the best results Art says that, “Every time I visit a field, I have two goals in mind: make the most accurate adjustment; and make sure the farmer feels that he can rely on my judgment.”

To reach this goal, “It’s very important that you clearly explain the procedures and how you came up with the loss adjustment total,” describes Art. Presenting these steps provides the farmer with an understanding as to how the loss was determined. Art’s appreciation for the producer is repaid with equal gratitude when he takes the extra time to help his clients.

From each visit, Art is one-step closer to a stronger relationship with the farmer. This is important to Art, because it is the reason he started adjusting in the first place.

“I always enjoyed visiting with my crop adjuster when he came out to my farm. He kept bringing up how he thought I would make a great adjuster,” tells Art, “I knew how much he had helped my farm operation, and I wanted to be able to do the same for others. I finally made the call and have loved my job ever since.”

It is not uncommon to find an adjuster like Art—one who has a passion for helping his community. But what is exceptional about him is that despite the fact that he must cover at least three different states at a time, being able to serve and contribute to agriculture is all Art asks for in return.

“Just like any job, there are trying times. But overall I enjoy my job, because I know that I am able to help the farmer,” explains Art.

Adjusters are the face of crop insurance, and make a direct impact on the perception of the industry. Besides their agent, a client will spend most of their time working with an adjuster when unfortunate weather strikes. It is important to remember that, “This is not only a business, but a livelihood; they [farmers] need to be reassured that they won’t lose what is very close and personal to them,” notes Art. How an adjuster interacts with a client will not go unnoticed or forgotten; a crucial point as to why crop insurance will always need adjusters like Art.

From developing a dedicated relationship, to mentoring farmers about procedures, Art brings a positive impact on crop insurance every day.