(Sept. 29) Generic mushroom promotions are coming back.

The Mushroom Council, Dublin, Calif., has been barred from promoting on behalf of the mushroom industry using assessment funds since 2001. So when president Bart Minor received a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reversing the decision, he was undeniably happy.

“I want it framed,” he said.

The USDA’s decision was based on the May U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of promotions for the beef industry. The court ruled that the government had an interest in speech from industry groups, and the First Amendment did not apply.

“It’s a landmark decision,” Minor said.

The USDA on Sept. 27 approved an increase in mushroom assessments for 2006, effective Jan. 1. Mushroom producers will pay .0035 cents per pound of mushrooms, compared to .0024 cents this year, which provides a $2 million budget.

That is still less than the assessment of the last year that the council could pay for promotions. In 2000, the council had a budget of $3.6 million, with advertising buys in radio, TV, banner ads, and shopping cart ads.

Mushroom producers have also responded with enthusiasm to the decision.

Joe Caldwell, vice president of Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Watsonville, Calif., said the industry needed this boost.

“During the 1990s, the sales increase trends were the best we’d seen,” he said.

But that ended soon after the Supreme Court ruling.

“We have seen a flattening of growth over the last five years,” he said. “I think we will see growth get back on track.”

Michael Basciani, owner of Basciani Mushroom Farms, Avondale, Pa., said he expected more immediate results.

“I think we’re going to see a 10% to 15% sales increase. I’m really excited to go into our busiest season,” he said.

Minor said he was prepared meet producers’ expectations.

Other groups in similar positions as the Mushroom Council have not responded with the same enthusiasm.

The Mushroom Council has requested proposals from advertising agencies to direct the promotions. The council expects to begin its promotional activities in January, Minor said. Mushroom producers plan to meet in October to provide input to the council, and the first review of the proposals is planned for Nov. 1.