The bruising business of an official state fruit
Leave it to a 10-year-old to expose how pernicious the legislative process can be, even when dealing with the most benign subject matter imaginable — peaches.
Who doesn’t love a peach? Especially one from Palisade. Nick Babiak, a fourth-grader from Denver, is a big fan of the succulent fruit. So much so that he set out on a mission to make Palisade peaches the state’s official fruit.
Sounds like a delicious idea. But in the political arena, nothing is ever simple. The youngster has learned as much about how a bill becomes a law — or doesn’t — as your average freshman lawmaker.
Babiak’s measure, sponsored by Sen. Steve King, has drawn opposition from farmers who question whether it’s smart or fair to confer official state status on one Colorado agricultural product at the expense of others — namely Rocky Ford melons.
Babiak impressed a House committee last month “when he offered a salient argument for why the Palisade peach should be the state fruit, presenting factual data that shows the produce far outsells any other in the state, generates thousands of jobs and is known throughout the nation,” the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported in Wednesday’s edition.
When melon producers objected, Babiak countered with the most astute argument possible: “The cantaloupe isn’t a fruit,” he said — so it shouldn’t be part of a discussion to block the peach from consideration.
He points to U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado Department of Agriculture reports that both list cantaloupe as a vegetable because it’s in the squash family.
Nevertheless, Babiak — not wanting to trigger a fruit fight — offered to amend his bill to make the Palisade peach the state’s official stone-fruit, leaving open the door for other fruit and vegetable growers to promote their own measures in the Legislature. But that still may not work. Opponents appear dead-set against any measure that highlights any form of produce over another.
As ridiculous as all of this sounds, there’s actually a lot of history around the subject of fruits and vegetables and how they’re classified. In the case of Nix v. Hedden, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes are vegetables, despite the botanical fact that tomatoes are fruits.
The Organic Gardening website offers a case summary:
“In 1883, a tariff was put in place to protect domestic vegetable growers by taxing imported vegetables. In 1886, the plaintiffs (Nix) imported some tomatoes from the West Indies. The collector of the port of New York (Hedden) imposed a duty on the tomatoes, which he considered vegetables. The plaintiffs paid the duty under protest and sued Hedden, arguing that tomatoes are botanically a fruit, and therefore should not be taxed as a vegetable. The case eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which decided that while tomatoes are indeed botanically defined as fruit, consumers think of tomatoes as vegetables, and that is how they should be legally defined.”
It just goes to show you that legislation — no matter how fruity — is serious business.