Out-Of-Town Company Leaves Ky. Worm Farmers Hanging

Published: May. 27, 2003 at 9:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 3, 2003 at 10:16 AM EDT
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(FRANKFORT, Ky., May 27th, 2003, 6 p.m.) -- Hundreds of Kentucky worm farmers have been forced to find markets for their products after the collapse of an Oklahoma company.

B&B Worm Farms of Meeker, Okla., has failed to buy live worms or pay for delivered worms as agreed in contracts with more than 800 Kentucky producers and thousands of others throughout the United States, according to lawsuits filed in Oklahoma and Kentucky.

B&B filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April.

"The producers who entered into contracts with B&B did so in good faith in an effort to make more money on the farm," Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith said. "The Kentucky Department of Agriculture's marketing office will do everything it can to help them find markets for their products."

Some producers in Kentucky and central Tennessee are considering forming cooperatives. The Kentucky Center for Cooperative Development can help. The KCCD, based in Elizabethtown, provides training for directors; helps cooperatives develop business plans, feasibility studies, articles of incorporation, and bylaws; assists with locating financing; and offers guidance in all other aspects of cooperative development.

The KCCD is funded by the Rural Business Cooperative Service, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, the Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

For more information about the KCCD's services, contact Executive Director Larry Snell at (270) 763-8258.

"We in the Department of Agriculture understand the urgency of this matter," Smith said. "Some of our producers were to have delivered worms and taken payment by now. The Department is working hard to help the producers who were caught in the middle of this situation."

The Kentucky Office of the Attorney General can help producers file complaints against B&B.

More information is available on the Internet at http://kyattorneygeneral.com/cp/farmers.htm or by calling the Consumer Protection Division at (502) 696-5389.

Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler sued B&B and the company president, Lynn Bradley, in April, claiming the defendants had made false claims about the earnings potential of the worm business while promoting the venture in Kentucky and more than 20 other states.

The suit said farmers paid B&B between $2,000 and $60,000 for contracts that require the Oklahoma company to buy back all the worms the farmers could produce at guaranteed prices of $7 to $9 per pound. The suit says B&B failed to register with the Consumer Protection Division and post bond as required by state law.

The Oklahoma Department of Securities filed a civil lawsuit in April against B&B, Lynn Bradley, and the estate of Greg Bradley. The Department obtained a temporary restraining order against the defendants and froze their assets.

The ODS believes the defendants received more than $20 million in connection with the business opportunity, the Department said in its civil suit.

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