Competing Against The Nicest Guy In Town | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Competing Against The Nicest Guy In Town

Play associated audio

For more: Why does the government subsidize crop insurance in the first place? We try to answer that question in our latest podcast.

The federal government spends about $7 billion a year on crop insurance for U.S. farmers. Policies are sold by private companies, but the government sets the rates, so the companies can't compete on price.

That means the guys who sell crop insurance have to find other ways to compete. They try to out-nice each other. They are very charming. They wear polo shirts depicting hobbies. They have fun nicknames. And they know everyone in town.

Don "Dizz" Biefelt is the most interested, friendly neighbor you can imagine. He's 82 years old, and he sells crop insurance in Anchor Illinois.

I sat with him on Anchor's one public bench. His customers were everywhere. That guy over there, working on a truck — he's a customer. (And, by the way, the customer's wife just had a gallbladder out, Dizz says.) The guy in that house over there is another customer, as is the guy down at the end. Dizz knows their mothers, their nicknames, their wives' digestion problems.

But Don has competition. Brent "Hondo" Honneger works a few miles down the road. Brent also wears polo shirts and is charming and knows everyone.

The morning I meet Brent he has organized a Q&A session for farmers on how to file a crop insurance claim. Brent invited a bunch of Don's clients to this event. Just in case, he says, they're not getting all their questions answered.

Then he makes sure to stand by the door and personally greet each farmer:

There's one customer who Brent has been trying to poach from Don he's been trying to poach from Don for decades. "But he's like, 'I go to church with Don. I see him every Sunday.'"

Brent says he is always gracious. But he'll occasionally ask Don's customers a few questions about whether Don is keeping up with the times. "Does he mail everything still?" Brent will ask. "He's still operating like we operated 20 years ago."

Government subsidies for crop insurance have set the stage for thousands of tiny popularity contests in small farming communities all across the country.

Right now, in the worst drought since 1956, most farmers have generous insurance coverage, and I can confidently report they're getting very good service.

For more: Why does the government subsidize crop insurance in the first place? We try to answer that question in our latest podcast.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

How Did The Son Of A Terrorist Chose Peace?

Zak Ebrahim is the son of terrorist El-Sayyid Nosair, one of the masterminds of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He tells the story of being raised to hate and how he chose a very different path.
NPR

Sweet: Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme Pump Up Pledge On Palm Oil

Two major doughnut chains have bowed to consumer pressure to better police their palm oil purchases. Environmentalists say it's a win for consumers, trees and animals.
NPR

Congress Quietly Extends The Budget — Past Election Day, Anyway

Since the GOP retook the House, the chamber once brought the country to the brink of a debt default and once shut down the government. But in election years, including this one, there's no such drama.
NPR

Retailers' Customers Cautioned As Cyber Attacks Continue

Home Depot says some 56 million card holders were possibly compromised in a cyber attack. It says there's no evidence that debit PIN numbers were comprised or that the breach affected online shoppers.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.