One of the best things about being back home in Texas is the food. And it's the myriad peppers that make Tex-Mex and other dishes so darn delicious.
Many of the peppers are grown here in the Lone Star State. But we also get our fair share from Mexico farmers and our U.S. neighbor to the west, New Mexico.
It seems, however, that there's trouble for pepper growers in the Land of Enchantment.
A combination of factors is causing all sorts of trouble for New Mexico's chile farmers and they're now asking the state government for some help.
The New Mexico Chile Association has proposed that farmers receive a $200 tax credit for each registered acre of chile they grow. The tax credit would be taken against any personal income tax owed. If approved, the tax break would take effect next summer and end in 2011. During that time, it would cost the state an estimated $2 million a year.
The cost to the state is necessary, maintain New Mexico's chile growers, for their survival. They say they are facing problems caused by a lack of workers, high labor costs, foreign imports and increased farming operation costs.
The growers say they are working to make their agricultural efforts more viable. Researchers at New Mexico State University and the farming industry are developing equipment and machine-friendly chile varieties so growers can mechanize the harvest. Until they reach that point, they say the tax incentive will help them survive.
As a fan of Hatch chiles, I hope the New Mexico's legislators and chile farmers find a way to keep producing these delicious peppers. I have some roasted green chiles stored in my freezer, but not nearly enough for an extended period of reduced crops.