Newsletter Article
October 1994

The Mushroom Council

(Updated on March 22, 2009 with new contact information.)

The "Mushroom Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information Act of 1990" was signed by the President on November 28 of 1990. The law (PL 101-624) declared Congressional policy and the purpose of the Act to be:

The act is not intended to control production or otherwise limit the right of individual growers to produce mushrooms. The Act permits the establishment of a Mushroom Council by order of the Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary of Agriculture is required to issue an order that will accomplish the stated purpose of the Act. The law specifies the structure and powers of the Council and requires that the order issued by the Secretary provide for collection of assessments from producers and importers.

After going through the standard procedures for development of Federal regulations, including public comment periods, the final order of the Secretary was issued on January 8, 1993 (7 CFR Part 1209). According to the order, producers or importers of more than 500,000 pounds of mushrooms per year must pay the assessment. The order also established the Mushroom Council which, after organizational efforts, is now in business.

We spoke with Wade Whitfield, President of the Council. He advised us that the assessment is $0.0025 per pound (that's 1/4 cent, if we have our decimal point correct) until the end of this year. In 1995 the maximum assessment will be $0.0050 per pound (1/2 cent) and in 1996 it may go as high as $0.01 (1 cent) per pound. Those payments are to be made by the 15th of the month following the month of sale. Payments are submitted with a special report form each month.

Commercial producers and importers of less than 500,000 pounds per year must file an exemption application once each year. USDA estimates that there will be 103 firms paying the assessment each month and 340 firms applying for the exemption each year. All reports are to be kept confidential. Collections are estimated at $1.1 million this year and $4.5 million by 1996. A civil penalty of from $500 to $5,000 can be levied against anyone violating the order. If the check for the assessment is not postmarked by the 15th of the month, a 10% late charge will be assessed. Accounts delinquent more than 2 months will have an 18% (annual) interest charge applied as well.

So, what do you get from the Council? According to Whitfield, the goal of the Council is to increase consumption of mushrooms. Toward that end the Council has established an office staff that, in addition to Whitfield, includes Lisa Greene, Office Manager and Robyn Wilk, Public Relations Director. A public relations agency (Lewis and Neale in New York City) has also been hired.

According to the Council's August newsletter, they are supporting National Mushroom Month with a four-color, full-page editorial which they'd like newspaper food editors to include in their publications during September. The page is entitled Mystique of Mushrooms and you may have seen it in your local newspaper by now. They have placed ads in The Packer, Produce News, and Produce Merchandising to encourage retailers and food service operators to feature mushrooms during September. In addition they have been distributing a comprehensive buyers guide. The Council staff will be attending the Produce Marketing Association's food service conference and a direct mail effort is under way. The direct mail project is aimed at 3,000 buyers and merchandisers who are encouraged to celebrate National Mushroom Month in September.

Council Chair, Dr. Robert Miller of Campbell's Fresh has appointed a marketing advisory committee to assist the Council and staff in their marketing efforts. The committee includes: Carl Fields, Monterey Mushrooms; Paul Frederic, Modern Mushrooms; Bob Hall, Wilson Mushrooms; Craig Handley, Sylvan Foods; Jack Reitnauer, Campbell's Fresh; and Jim Simonson, Franklin Mushrooms.

For those of you who are small growers, the slight inconvenience of filing an exemption application each year will be easily offset by the efforts of the Council. Larger growers, will be footing the bill, so if you're planning to get your production up to the 500,000 pound per year range you'll need to factor that extra cost into your business plan.

We strongly recommend that you get in immediate contact with the Council staff to establish your exemption or payment processes, if you haven't already done so. They can be reached at:

The Mushroom Council
2880 Zanker Road, Suite 203
San Jose, CA 95134
Voice: (408) 432-7210
Fax: (408) 432-7213 Fax
WWW: www.mushroomcouncil.org

Overall, the additional regulation is worrisome, but we think the Council will be good for the small grower by increasing demand in communities that can be best served by local specialty growers. The increased publicity for the standard species (Agaricus, crimini, shiitake, oyster, enoki, and portabella) should also begin to allay cultural fears about mushrooms, in general, and open opportunities with other species.