Bills in Congress Sprouting a Fix for Mushroom Labor Crisis in Chester County

New legislation in Congress is sprouting hope that Chester County immigrant mushroom workers could be allowed to get year-round visas. Image via Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms.

Several new legislative spores are beginning to sprout support for a fix to Chester County’s mushrooming labor shortage.

The leading effort is a U.S. House of Representatives bill that would open the seasonal H-2A immigrant worker visa program to year-round mushroom and dairy laborers, according to a NewsWorks report by Laura Benshoff.

“We definitely have a labor shortage in the mushroom industry and at our own farm,” said Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms Regulatory Manager Meghan Klotzbach. “We are not able to harvest all of the mushrooms that we are growing.”

Another bill aims to overhaul the H-2A program, a third one to let states issue visas, and yet another one to create a path to residency for current unauthorized immigrants.

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“This is so early in the process, we’re just watching it like everyone else,” said American Mushroom Institute Project Manager Daniel Rohn. “We’re certainly in need of agriculture labor reform, and this is a step in that direction.”

The opposition to the bills centers around the potential for immigrants to replace full-time jobs currently filled by Americans and for companies to take advantage of immigrant workers.

But in West Grove, the proposals are good news.

“There’s some really positive things going on out there, and people are really pushing to get these things through,” Klotzbach said.

Read more about the mushroom bills in Congress on NewsWorks here, and check out previous VISTA Today coverage of the local industry here.

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