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Trading Assistance: Resolving claims, collections & disputes

Trading Assistance

Blue Book Services has provided trading guidelines and best practices throughout its long history. 

Today, the Trading Assistance team provides collection and dispute resolution services tailored to the fresh produce industry, and helps you evaluate the creditworthiness of trading and transportation partners.  


In this article we discuss how Trading Assistance works and how it may help you.

Collections and the C.A.T.

When collections are placed with Blue Book, they appear in the Claims Activity Table (C.A.T.) maintained for each listed firm. 

Basic facts such as the amount claimed, the date the claim was placed, and the claimant type (e.g., produce or transportation) are reported. The claimant’s name is not shared and remains confidential to third parties. 

We also report the status of claims. Each claim begins with a status of “under review” and is then updated to “paid in full” or “respondent unresponsive” or whatever the case may be as we work through our process.  

If the respondent refuses to pay or support its nonpayment, we will eventually assign a deadline for flagging the claim as “meritorious.”

Meritorious claims are reported to Blue Book members in our weekly Credit Sheet and, if they are closed before any settlement can be reached, will appear in the respondent’s C.A.T. for five years, rather than the two years for claims that are not flagged as meritorious.  

The C.A.T. alerts credit extenders of a potential problem and encourages the respondent (alleged debtor) to prioritize the issue by either paying the outstanding obligation or by explaining and supporting its reasons for not paying.

We sometimes get asked why members file with Blue Book rather than with a USDA Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) Branch office.

There are a few reasons for this, but the big ones are: First, we tend to be faster because we don’t have to adhere to a full-blown administrative process, and because conscientious respondents typically want to resolve outstanding issues affecting their credit profile as quickly as possible.

Second, PACA’s jurisdiction is, for the most part, limited to interstate vendor-to-vendor transactions, while Blue Book can handle these claims plus carrier claims and vendor-to-vendor claims involving intrastate transactions.

Also, we do not have restrictions where foreign vendors are concerned (i.e., no bonding requirements for claimants based outside the United States).

Third, provided PACA’s nine-month statute of limitations is honored, claimants can attempt to recover through Blue Book, and if not successful, then file through PACA—in effect, getting two bites at the apple.    

Dispute Resolution

A good percentage of the claims we see involve some type of dispute.

When this is the case, we act as a neutral mediator, rather than as a collector, at least until we’ve heard the parties out and reviewed the merits of the claim.

Our assessment of claims is based largely on Blue Book’s Trading and Transportation Guidelines, which, in turn, are based on the Uniform Commercial Code and PACA precedent. 

With these resources as a reference, most disputed files can be amicably settled. And if not, these resources help guide reporting decisions. We try to clearly explain our reasoning (in writing) to the parties before flagging any disputed claim as meritorious.

We will also field questions before a dispute arises. 

For example, (1) “Does this inspection certificate show the product failed to make good arrival?” or (2) “The reefer download looks good, can I still claim the truck for warm product?” and (3) Who is responsible for paying for a USDA or CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) inspection?”

We answer these types of questions by referencing our Trading and Transportation Guidelines, and from the perspective of how we would likely view the matter if it were placed with us as a claim or an arbitration (we’ve done fewer arbitrations in recent years, but they work well for routine disputes where traditional litigation would be overkill). 

Of course, we’re not practicing attorneys, and if legal advice is sought, there are a number of qualified industry-knowledgeable attorneys listed in the Blue Book. 

Bottom Line

Although produce professionals are generally very good at securing payment and resolving disputes, there are situations where an impasse arises. In these situations, Blue Book’s Trading Assistance is here to help.  


Doug Nelson is Vice President of Trading Assistance for Blue Book Services Inc.