Pete Gray (from left), grower manager at Phillips Mushroom Farms, Kennett Square, Pa., takes Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), on a tour of the companies facilities on May 30.

( American Mushroom Institute )

Pushing trade goals and hearing about labor woes from mushroom growers, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue came to Kennett Square, Pa., and participated in an industry discussion on May 30.

Perdue and U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), toured Phillips Mushroom Farms, a fourth-generation, nearly 100-year-old operation in Kennett Square.

In his remarks, Perdue focused on his commitment to passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, according to a news release. The release said farmers from the American Mushroom Institute and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau shared concerns about the need for a legal agricultural workforce. 

“We were honored to host the secretary today,” Rachel Roberts, AMI executive director, said in the release. “It’s not every day that a member of the U.S. president’s cabinet reaches out to our industry, and we welcomed very much 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 federal government’s seasonal H2-A guest worker program, according to the release. That leaves a 20% to 25% shortfall in the harvesting workforce, according to the release.