On Monday, Pennsylvania U.S. Senators John Fetterman (D-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA), along with a bipartisan group of colleagues in the House, introduced the Protecting Mushroom Farmers Act requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct a study on providing crop insurance for mushroom farmers. The study would analyze the effects of threats to production, such as inclement weather and pests uniquely harmful to mushrooms, in addition to farmers’ ability to grow mushrooms and maintain profitability.
This study represents a first step toward providing federally backed crop insurance to these farmers. The companion bill was introduced by Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Dan Meuser (R-PA).
“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 Sen. 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 Sen. 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.”
“When I talk with mushroom farmers in Chester County, they often mention the unique factors that affect their farms. 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 Rep. Houlahan. “The Protecting Mushroom Farmers Act is the first step in the process to ensure our farmers are protected when they encounter these unforeseen dangers, and offering this much needed assurance that their businesses are secure. Many of these farms have been passed down through generations of single families, and we must ensure they have the protection they need continue to contribute so much to our food systems and agricultural economy.”
“Pennsylvania is the number one producer of mushrooms in the country, and we must ensure our farmers 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,” said Rep. Meuser. “This legislation is a responsible first step in examining whether extending crop insurance to mushroom farmers is most prudent for their long-term success, and I’m happy to support the study laid out in the Protecting Mushroom Farmers Act.”
“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,” said Rachel Roberts, President of the American Mushroom Institute. “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.”
Pennsylvania produces more mushrooms than any state in the country, with over half of U.S. mushroom production taking place in Chester County, leading to the region being nicknamed the “Mushroom Capital of the World.” The mushroom industry is a strong economic driver for Pennsylvania and the country, with its total economic footprint exceeding $1.1 billion and supporting over 8,500 jobs.
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