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New Mexico Now Depends Upon Mexican Chiles

by Dave Dewitt on May 19, 2011 · 0 comments

Chile Harvesting, Mesilla Valley, New MexicoThe recent news that harvested chile pepper acreage in New Mexico had dropped to a “mere” 8,700 acres, down from a high of 29,000 acres more than a decade ago, has politicians screaming about “fake New Mexican chiles” being imported from Mexico.  But these Mexican chiles are hardly fakes–they are the same varieties developed by researchers at New Mexico State University, like ‘NuMex 6-4 Heritage’.  They are legally grown in Mexico and legally imported to the processors in southern New Mexico under the provisions of NAFTA.  Why?  Because New Mexican producers cannot keep up with the chile demand from consumers because many of the growers have switched to more profitable crops like pecans and cotton.  If you really, really want your chile, does it really matter if it is grown in the Mesilla Valley or 100 miles south of there in Chihuahua?  I don’t think so.
The recently-passed New Mexico Chile Advertising Act, which supposedly prohibits the advertising of chiles listed as New Mexican but not grown in the state, is a joke.  It is totally unenforceable which renders it useless, and is another attempt by politicians to place a “legal fix” upon what is really just an economic fact of life brought on by changing times, NAFTA, and the ability of farmers in other countries to grow New Mexican varieties to meet the demand here.

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