A new law in New Mexico that protects chile farmers from pepper imposters has recently gone into effect, just in time for harvest season.
The New Mexico Chile Advertising Act states chile can only be labeled New Mexico chile if it is actually grown in New Mexico soil.Some producers have marketed their chile as “Grown in New Mexico” when it was brought in from another country or state – taking away from local sales.
“Chile is a way of life for us,” said Chris Franzoy, owner of Young Guns Produce near Hatch, N.M. “If we don’t have the sales, (then) obviously we’re not going to have the revenue to support the families who depend on that revenue.”
"You know, Wisconsin has their cheese, Idaho has their potatoes, it’s about time New Mexico has their chile recognized around the world.”
- Melva Aguirre, owner of the Pepper Pot restaurant in Hatch, N.M.
Chile grower Victoria Franzoy of Chile River, Inc. said she’s seen first-hand falsely advertised chile on store shelves.
“I saw a bag of dehydrated red chile and it said ‘New Mexico Chile' on it real big and on the bottom of it, it said ‘Product of Mexico.’”
The industry-driven law that passed in 2011 in the New Mexico state legislature went into effect in July.
“This ensures the fairness in advertising of New Mexico chile,” said Katie Goetz, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
Goetz told FoxNews.com the law requires chile growers in New Mexico to submit forms with their chile to show that it was indeed grown in New Mexico. The forms must follow the chile to its place of sale – even if the chile was used as an ingredient. Vendors must also register with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
Goetz says chile imposters, beware. “If that company on the shelf isn’t registered with us -- if we don’t have them as part of our database – (then) that (product) is pulled from the shelf until that company can be brought into compliance.”
He says that inspectors with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture are checking chile products in stores and restaurants statewide regularly and have found products not in compliance with the new law.
Last year chile brought $300 million into the state’s economy, according to the New Mexico Chile Association.
Yet in New Mexico, there has been a significant decrease in chile demand over the past several years. In 1990, 35,000 acres of chile was harvested. In 2011, it was just under 10,000.
Jeff Witte, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, says that’s due to a number of factors, including how farmers utilize their growing methods.
However, Chile River, Inc.'s Chris Franzoy said since the rules went into effect, he’s already seen a sales increase of 20 percent. People who live in New Mexico say it’s about time their chile is protected.
“It’s a safeguard for these farmers that have to raise it and spend all the money to get good quality products,” says resident Benny Torres.
Melva Aguirre, owner of the Pepper Pot restaurant in Hatch, N.M. says this will boost demand and finally give New Mexico chile farmers the credit they deserve for their products.
“I just think it’s wonderful especially for New Mexico. You know, Wisconsin has their cheese, Idaho has their potatoes, it’s about time New Mexico has their chile recognized around the world,” Aguirre says.
Witte says he expects a boost in chile production statewide next season.
“Next year we’ll have more acres planted and you’ll start to see resurgence in the green chile and red chile products in New Mexico.”
Patrick Manning is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here.