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U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visits Mushroom Capital of the World

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On May 30, mushroom industry leaders and other agricultural sectors rolled out the red carpet to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for a roundtable discussion related to issues regarding their operations.

The event, held at Phillips Mushroom Farms in Kennett Square, PA, was hosted and organized by the American Mushroom Institute, headquartered in Avondale, PA.

Secretary Perdue came to Kennett Square to focus on his commitment to passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, promising it will benefit farmers. Farmers at the roundtable from AMI and the PA Farm Bureau concentrated on the importance of a legal agricultural workforce.

“We were honored to host the secretary today,” said AMI Executive Director Rachel Roberts. “It’s not every day that a member of the U.S. president’s cabinet reaches out to our industry, and we welcomed the opportunity to directly make our case to the secretary for competitive trade and especially labor policies that would allow our U.S. mushroom industry to meet the unprecedented demand for mushrooms.”

Mushrooms are grown year-round and do not qualify for the seasonal H2-A guestworker program. Each day there is a 20-25 percent gap in the harvesting workforce, which limits mushroom businesses from expanding capacity, and leaves the U.S. market open for imported mushrooms to meet growing demand.

“The issue of agricultural labor was not a new topic for the secretary, and he noted that in his expansive travels across the country the issue of a reliable, legal agricultural workforce was a top issue for all agriculture producers,” said Roberts.

U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania’s sixth congressional district Chrissy Houlahan also participated in the roundtable, as did Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary for Market Development Cheryl Cook.

In addition to the roundtable discussion, the group toured Phillips Mushroom Farms, a fourth-generation, nearly 100-year-old operation whose farms range from still functioning original buildings to state-of-the-art modern facilities.

In 2018, U.S. mushroom farms produced 917 million pounds of mushrooms. Pennsylvania, specifically southeastern Pennsylvania, produced nearly two-thirds of these mushrooms, with a value of $575 million.

AMI is a national voluntary trade association representing the growers, processors and marketers of cultivated mushrooms in the United States and industry suppliers worldwide.