NM Rep. Andy Nuñez, an independent from the chile capital of Hatch is pushing a bill that seeks to penalize those grocery stores, restaurants, roadside stands and anybody who falsely claims to sell New Mexico chiles.
Much like Florida oranges, New Mexico chile is a premium product that deserves protection, alleges expert witness Charlie Marquez, a representative of the New Mexico Chile Association.
“We see cans of chile that say ‘Hatch,’ and that product does not come from the United States,” Marquez said.
Members of the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee endorsed Nunez’s bill, though more than a few were skeptical.
Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro, said he appreciated the intent of seeking transparency in the labeling and advertising of New Mexico chile, but, questioned if the proposed law would be a plausible “thing to audit or police.”
Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said Nunez’s bill mentioned only one type of chile pepper - the “fruit from Capsicum annuum, New Mexican-type,” and wondered if it should also include other New Mexico-grown peppers, like jalapenos.
Under the bill, the regents of New Mexico State University would administer and enforce the chile advertising act through the state Department of Agriculture.
NMSU has not taken a position on the bill.