The New Mexico chile pepper industry is attempting to protect the integrity of one of the state’s valuable cash crops via a new certification program.
The New Mexico Chile Association is bringing the heat to protect the state’s official vegetable, the chile pepper.
Chile is a way of life in our state, ingrained in our culture and our economy.
This week, NMCA announced a new trademark that will distinguish and preserve the reputation of the cash crop, as trademarks have done for other well-known agricultural products such as Vidalia Onions and Idaho Potatoes. Like other association-backed trademark campaigns, NMCA’s New Mexico Certified Chile program aims to help cut down on the number of pepper imposters that are falsely labeled as “NM Grown,” even though they are produced outside the state.
“Some people are asking why this is necessary,” NMCA’s Executive Director Jaye Hawkins told The Packer. “One reason is competition from other regions has been a big issue for our growers because some people have been mislabeling their products and using ‘New Mexico’ when the [peppers] were not grown here.”
NMCA also hopes the program will bolster the state’s chile industry, which has seen a steep decline over the last couple of decades. The average number of acres of harvested chiles in the state dropped by almost 26,000 between 1992 and 2013, and 82 percent of the chile peppers consumed in the United States is imported from other countries, according to the association.
Since NMCA launched the trademark, more than 150 restaurants, growers, groceries, and processors have become certified to use the official brand stamp. There is a $500 annual fee as well as a 0.002 cent per-pound fee to obtain a license for the trademark, which is available to NMCA members only.
“Chile is a way of life in our state, ingrained in our culture and our economy,” said New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez in the trademark announcement. “It supports more than 4,000 jobs and contributes more than $400 million every year to New Mexico’s economy. … This program further cements the status of New Mexico chile on par with other nationally renowned state and regional products.”