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US: Shoshoni mushroom farm is running again

A Shoshoni mushroom farm, which shut down last October because of a lack of workers, is back in business with legal migrant workers from California, state officials said.

Wyoming Business Council officials Ben Avery and Roger Bower, the west-central regional director, said they understood the Wind River Mushrooms plant shipped its first load in July.

They said Doug Tanner, a co-owner of the operation, has rented units in Shoshoni to house the workers.

The plant first opened in 2004.

Avery, the portfolio and loan program manager for the Wyoming Business Council, said the farm owners have never missed a payment to the council and First Interstate Bank of Jackson on a $3 million loan for the mushroom farm.

The council's loan share was $250,000. The total loan is backed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development business and industry guarantee, which would pick up 70 percent of any loan default.

Initially, labor for the farm was supplied by minimum security inmates from the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton who volunteered for the jobs.

The project was initially plagued by an odor problem, which was fixed when the owners installed equipment.

The inmate labor didn't work out because officials said they weren't quick enough in cutting the crimini and portabella mushrooms.

The owners then hired some trained workers from Guatemala to fill the orders for mushrooms. That arrangement ended, Tanner said earlier, when officials from the Department of Homeland Security, which now includes the Immigration and Naturalization Service, started checking the workers' credentials and found some in question.

The Guatemalans packed up and left town, leaving only the inmate labor.

Tanner, who has raised mushrooms in California for 40 years, would say only that the plant is open and declined to give further information when contacted in his California office this week by the Casper Star-Tribune.


Publication date: 8/22/2007


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