• Displaced Cargill employees in Westwego, Louisiana, live in company trailers while volunteers and co-workers help rebuild their homes.
  • Rick Calhoun, president of Cargo Carriers (right), assesses how damage on the Mississippi River will affect agricultural operations in the upcoming months.
  • With electric banking systems down, Cargill supplies emergency funds to employees in Louisiana and Mississippi affected by the natural disaster.
  • Business partners of Cargill send truckloads of donated food: eggs from Cargill Kitchen Solutions and flour from Horizon Milling, used by Domino’s for pizza.
  • With support from Cargill, “Katrina Kids” collects toiletries, school supplies and toys for nearly 20,000 children seeking refuge in storm shelters.

Rebuilding after natural disasters

When natural disasters devastate local communities, Cargill joins forces with others to provide relief and lead the recovery process.

Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, was the seventh most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, killing nearly 1,800 people in the United States. In the aftermath, power went out, mobile phones stopped working and streets flooded. Workplaces shut down and people lost their homes due to damage from wind, fallen trees, floodwater and mold.

For many, Katrina left in its wake a frightening world, depleted of food and clean water, even lacking law enforcement. Among those affected were hundreds of Cargill employees who worked at seven locations across Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“While Cargill is very fortunate to have, for the most part, been spared the direct ravages of Katrina, the recovery period for our employees and businesses in the Gulf Coast will be very arduous and challenging.”—Joint statement by Warren Staley, CEO of Cargill, and Greg Page, President of Cargill

Immediately, Cargill’s grain and oilseeds business focused on locating missing employees who had scattered in the face of the storm. Restoring operations of two critical grain export elevators at the company’s Westwego and Reserve locations was another primary focus. The storm had struck just as fall harvest season was beginning in the north, bringing high volumes of crops destined for export down the Mississippi River toward Louisiana.

Cargill immediately became a key source of information for federal government agencies, including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Realizing that the grain export industry was critical to thousands of farm customers across the country, the USDA and FEMA placed priority on assisting companies engaged in agricultural exports.

After the hurricane, another crucial, wide-reaching need emerged: housing for the displaced. Working with the corporate affairs team in Washington DC, Cargill’s grain and oilseeds business arranged for 51 trailers and mobile homes from FEMA to serve as temporary housing for employees. Some trailers were delivered to employees’ homes, while others were placed around the Westwego export facility. Organizations such as Living Lands & Waters, long-time Cargill partner, assisted with the clean-up and rebuilding efforts. “What is virtually impossible to capture [is] the spirit and effort of the displaced employees,” said Rick Calhoun, president of Cargill’s Cargo Carriers business. “[This is] coupled with the compassion and energy of the team, which gave up its normal jobs and lives for months to help get things ‘back to normal’ in Louisiana .”

“What is virtually impossible to capture is the spirit and effort of the displaced employees.”—Rick Calhoun, President, Cargill Cargo Carriers

To support employees who had no access to their bank accounts—telecommunications and power were down—Cargill established an Employee Emergency Relief Fund. These funds were dispersed to employees according to the severity of their losses.

Almost one month after Hurricane Katrina struck, US President George W. Bush penned a letter of thanks to Cargill, writing: “The good works of Cargill demonstrate the character and great strength of our Nation.” 

Letter to Cargill from George W. BushA letter from US President George W. Bush, thanking Cargill for its hard work in the wake of the storm, hangs in Rick Calhoun’s office today.


The response to Hurricane Katrina is but one example of Cargill’s goodwill and teamwork in the face of devastation. The company’s Natural Disaster Relief program, first established in the wake of the Indonesian Tsunami in 1990, continues to provide immediate and long-term relief in the aftermath of natural disasters across the globe.

In the spring of 2011, widespread damage struck again on the other side of the world: an earthquake and tsunami hit northeast Japan, injuring 16,000 people and causing US $300 billion in damage. Cargill’s donations to relief efforts in the region were used to deliver food and supplies to evacuation centers and welfare agencies. In 2014, Cargill announced an additional donation to the Canadian Red Cross, pledging to help victims of severe flooding in the prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Through volunteer work, financial contributions and powerful partnerships, Cargill continues to participate in rebuilding efforts after crises such as these, demonstrating its commitment to communities