Computer trouble plays havoc with grain payments

Cargill is apologizing to its farmer customers for payment delays caused by an update to its computer systems.

“We recognize this has been an incredible disruption and not what our customers should expect from Cargill,” company spokesperson Bridget Christenson said in an email.

“We are dedicated to delivering a higher level of service and have made systems improvements and put additional resources in place to ensure timely payments going forward.”

The apology is too little, too late for one grower from central Saskatchewan.

“I’m done with Cargill,” said the farmer who requested anonymity because he still has one last contract to settle with the company.

The grower delivered 1,800 bushels of canola to the company’s crush plant in Clavet, Sask., on July 30 and was owed $34,000 to $35,000 after dockage deductions.

He didn’t receive his cheque until almost five weeks later at the end of August.

“Normally they’re 24 to 48 hours to make settlement,” he said.

The longest he has had to wait for payment is around 10 days when dealing with feedlots or brokers. He said 30 days is “absolutely unheard of” for a major grain firm.

“You would think a large company like Cargill would have some contingency plan set in place if the computers go down,” said the grower.

“They had absolutely zero empathy or compassion,” he said. “They did not care whether I got my money or not.”

The Canadian Grain Commission received nine slow payment complaints about Cargill as of Sept. 23. All nine were resolved in a timely manner, meaning the growers have been paid.

CGC spokesperson Remi Gosselin said growers do not need to worry about the financial well-being of the largest privately held corporation in the United States.

“It’s not that Cargill is going out of business here or having trouble paying producers,” he said.

“It’s more about their internal computer systems having a glitch and they’re dealing with it.”

Gosselin said Cargill is replacing its computers and they’re having trouble reconciling the old system with the new.

Christenson would not divulge how widespread the problem is. However, the grower said his rep told him it was a Canada-wide issue.

Christenson said the grain company took immediate action to fix the system as soon as it was made aware of the problem and quickly communicated what was going on with its farmer customers.

The Saskatchewan grower said he was told that there was some sort of computer problem but was also repeatedly told to wait a few more days for his money.

“I’m trying to understand what I did wrong. I delivered a load of canola and wanted my money,” he said.

Christenson did not say when the problem will be completely resolved but indicated it was still an ongoing issue as of her Sept. 24 email.

“We realize that some customers may still be experiencing issues and encourage them to reach out to their Cargill representative if they haven’t already done so,” she said.