The New Mexico Chile Advertising Act -- signed by Governor Susana Martinez makes it illegal to advertise any product as a New Mexico chile unless the chile is grown in the state.
"People all over the country advertise New Mexico chile -- whether it's genuine or not," said Rep. Andy Nunez, who sponsored the bill. "This law makes it easier to protect one of our state's most treasured products and preserve the good name of our world-class chiles."
New Mexico is known for its green chile but the industry is in decline. New Mexico’s acreage is down by two-thirds of what was grown in the early 1990’s. More than 34,000 acres were harvested in 1992. In 2008 only 11,100 acres were harvested in the state. Fewer than 9,000 acres of chile plants were harvested in New Mexico in 2010. The crop contributes $350 million to the state's economy each year.
"People think our biggest problem comes from Mexico, but it's really from China and Peru, whose labor is extraordinarily cheap," said Jaye Hawkins, executive director of the NM Chile Association, which pushed for the bill. Imports account for about 82% U.S. consumption of chile. Foreign competitors sell chile cheaper than it costs to grow it in the U.S.
"We just want our consumer to feel confident that when they order New Mexico chile, that's in fact what it is," Hawkins said.
Violators of the misdemeanor could be fined or serve time in jail, Nunez said.
To see the New Mexico Chile Advertising Act click on the link below.