By Robert Boczkiewicz | for The Citizen
The federal government alleges that an Alamosa mushroom company owes $137,301 to an agency created by Congress to promote the mushroom industry.
The allegation is in a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court in Denver against Colorado Mushroom Farm company, 10719 Road 5 South.
The company, in a court filing on June 8, contends the government “fails to state a plausible claim” under the law that created the national Mushroom Council.
The council’s programs and expenses are funded by assessments levied on mushroom businesses such as Colorado Mushroom Farm.
There are similar programs for other agricultural industries: “Beef, it’s what for dinner” and “Pork, the other white meat.”
The lawsuit alleges the company “failed to pay 26 monthly assessments from September 2017–December 2019 due to the Mushroom Council” under the mushroom promotion law.
The farm and the council entered into a settlement agreement in October 2019, in which the farm agreed it owed $92,453.25 to the council
and would pay $4,000 until the balance was paid, according to the lawsuit. The government alleges the farm failed to make a payment that was due two months later.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which helps administer the mushroom council, filed an administrative complaint in 2020 regarding the debt allegedly owed by the Alamosa company, but the firm failed to file an answer as required by USDA rules, the lawsuit asserts.
The amount allegedly owed has increased due to accumulation of interest charges and a civil penalty that the government imposed.
“Prior to referring this case to the Department of Justice for collection, the USDA . . . sought to enforce the assessments in a department administrative proceeding,’ the government stated in the lawsuit.
At a court conference on Wednesday, an attorney for the farm told the judge that his client and the government are discussing how they might agree to settle the case. “I’m fairly confident we’ll have a settlement in fairly short order,” he said.
The farm is represented by a Littleton lawyer and the government is represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Colorado.