Washington mushroom farm gets state aid to exit suburbia

Ostrom's Mushrooms President David Knudsen asks the House Finance Committee on Feb. 16 in Olympia for a tax break to lower the cost of moving from Thurston County to Yakima County. Lawmakers didn't approve the tax exemption, but did put $1 million in the capital budget for the move.

A Western Washington mushroom farm will get a million-dollar boost from state lawmakers to move across the Cascades to the Port of Sunnyside in Yakima County.

Lawmakers appropriated $1 million to the port to save Ostrom’s Mushrooms the expense of preparing land for a $35 million farm. The port’s executive director, Jay Hester, said Wednesday that he expects Ostrom to bring 200 full-time jobs to the port.

“That’s huge for us,” he said. “It will be nice to have jobs in agribusiness that are not seasonal.”

Ostrom’s is the state’s largest mushroom farm. The company has grown mushrooms in Lacey for 50 years, but agriculture is no longer compatible with the suburban neighborhood that has developed around the farm, Ostrom’s President David Knudsen told a House committee in February.

Sen. Jim Honeyford and Rep. Bruce Chandler, legislators who represent Sunnyside, originally sought to help Ostrom’s by introducing bills to exempt the company from paying sales tax on building materials. Ostrom’s estimated the exemption would be worth $1.8 million. The company said a move may not be financially possible without the tax break.

The bills stalled, but the lawmakers were able to get the $1 million in the capital budget passed March 8.

“I’m excited about having them for neighbors,” Chandler, a Republican, said Wednesday.

Ostrom’s has said it will have room at the port to grow and possibly employ 400 workers.

“I think 400 jobs is a big deal in Sunnyside,” Chandler said.

Efforts to reach Knudsen were not successful.

Hester said the $1 million will be used to stabilize the ground. He said that he anticipates the work could be done within 60 days.

Knudsen has said his company is poised to start construction. He said the project should take about a year.

The state Department of Agriculture supported Ostrom’s at the House hearing. A department official said urban growth was preventing the company from expanding and updating its farm.

The farm grows mushrooms indoors, but neighbors have complained about smells from outdoor compost piles.

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