The Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association Inc. (BFAA Inc.) came to Dothan on Thursday, Nov. 21, to explain to residents how they can become part of a class action lawsuit that could give them up to $50,000. The group is not technically lying; we have found that there are some things residents should be cautious about before getting involved.
Last week’s meeting with the BFAA Inc. was meant to help black farmers who believe they were discriminated against by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA). Hundreds of area farmers came out to hear how they could become part of the class action lawsuit and to have BFAA Inc. President and CEO Thomas Burrell help them.
“This group here today is arguing they believe that they also have something in common with the original plaintiff but for the fact that they were not notified they missed the opportunity to get in the first one, the second one, the third one and the fourth one and the fifth one,” explained Burrell on Thursday, Nov. 21.
While the five lawsuits following the Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation are closed, it is still possible that another class action suit could come out over the next few years.
“There is always a possibility of more lawsuits to come forward I doubt seriously that there can be any lawsuits that cover the time period between 1981 through 1996 my understanding is that any lawsuit coming forward would have to be from Dec. 31 1996 in claims of discrimination,” explained Gary Grant, Official BFAA President.
Some cause for concern is that the BFAA Inc. asks farmers to become members before they can advocate on their behalf and membership will cost you $100 a year.
“No one has to join an organization or become a member in order for a class action to take place. It usually joins the class and that doesn’t cost anything,” said Grant. “I would also say that on our website it says that we are not connected with this group at all.”
Another red flag, the Better Business Bureau gives the BFAA Inc. an “F” rating for multiple complaints and lack of responses.
Additionally, last week Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange issued a statement about a potential black farmer scam.
“I am concerned by reports that there may be meetings in Alabama where black farmers are told that, for a fee, someone can help them file claims and participate in a federal discrimination lawsuit - this is simply untrue, and farmers should not pay any money or provide personal information," said Strange.