Bipartisan Group of PA Members Introduce Legislation to Protect Mushroom Farmers

mushroomsImage via Pixabay

Yesterday, Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Dan Meuser (R-PA) introduced the Protecting Mushroom Farmers Act which would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct a study on the benefits of providing crop insurance for mushroom farmers. This study would analyze various threats to production, such as inclement weather and pests uniquely harmful to mushrooms, and their impact on farmers’ ability to grow mushrooms and maintain profitability. This study represents an overdue first step toward providing federally-backed crop insurance to these farmers. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators John Fetterman (D-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA).

“When I talk with mushroom farmers in Berks and Chester Counties, they often mention the unique factors that affect their farms. Successful mushroom growth is achieved through a specific climate-controlled setting and as a result, mushrooms are grown indoors in mushroom houses. Pests like the Mushroom Phorid fly, and the Mushroom Sciarid Fly, are only found in mushroom houses, and can carry fungal pathogens that can destroy entire crops.” said Houlahan. “The Protecting Mushroom Farmers Act is the first step in the process to ensure our farmers are protected and their businesses are secure when they encounter these unforeseen dangers. Many of these farms have been passed down through generations of families, and we must ensure these businesses have the protection they need to continue to contribute so much to our food systems and agricultural economy.”

“Pennsylvania is the number one producer of mushrooms in the country, and family mushroom farms support more than 9,000 jobs in the Commonwealth and have an economic impact upwards of $1.2 billion,” Meuser said. “We must ensure our family farms have the necessary protections available for various threats to their crops and make certain they have the ability to be insured should they face unforeseen circumstances. This legislation is a responsible first step in examining how extending crop insurance to mushroom farmers could aid their long-term success, and I’m happy to support the study laid out in the Protecting Mushroom Farmers Act.”

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“The Farm Bill needs to work better for specialty crop producers. We have a successful crop insurance system for commodity crops, but it’s time we open crop insurance to more farmers,” said Fetterman. “It’s just common sense that mushroom farmers need to be covered under relevant crop insurance regulations. Mushrooms are one of Pennsylvania’s most storied and critical crops, and the hardworking farmers in this industry deserve that coverage.”

Chester County farmers grow 60 percent of all mushrooms produced in the United States and mushroom farming employs more than 9,400 in Pennsylvania, yet these farmers can’t access the same insurance policies many other agricultural producers have,” said Casey. “The Protecting Mushroom Farmers Act will begin to level the playing field for Pennsylvania mushroom farmers by creating solutions to protect their livelihood from unavoidable damage.”

“Mushrooms are unique. The biome of cultivated mushrooms and the ecosystem of upwards of 30 other agricultural byproducts used to grow them is unlike any other specialty crop. The number-one cash crop in Pennsylvania, mushroom farmers across the country endure specific challenges to grow the mushrooms we consume. Mushrooms have unique growing characteristics as well as pesticide, fungal and viral threats that only fungi are vulnerable to. To survive on razor-thin margins, mushroom growers are improving efficiencies and seeking a fair share of what support mushroom farms, like so many other crops and sectors, can receive with USDA’s help. Mushrooms are quickly becoming problem solvers in health, sustainability, and other areas. They are a uniquely nutritious protein with disease-preventative and cognitive-protective properties. Too perishable to be imported or exported overseas, U.S. mushrooms are produced in the U.S. Supporting the farmers who grow them for the consumers who thrive off them is of critical importance to the future,” said Rachel Roberts, president of the American Mushroom Institute.

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