Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Friday, 24 February 2006

Peach 'row' beckons for US states

Alabama would be the third state to make the peach an official fruit

The US state of Alabama is set to make the peach its official tree fruit.

Aimed at rewarding the work of state peach farmers, the move has dismayed Alabama's near-neighbour Georgia, which brands itself "The Peach State".

If the peach proposal wins the backing of Alabama senators it will enter a pantheon of flora and fauna officially honoured by the southern state.

"If you've ever tasted Alabama peaches, you'd throw rocks at Georgia," Alabama Democrat James Martin said.

US states routinely honour a host of symbols deemed representative of their cultural and natural history.

Political deal

The motion to immortalise the peach was the result of a political quid pro quo hatched in 2004 by Republican and Democrat rivals in the state's lower house of Congress.

Two years ago Democrats backed a Republican proposal to anoint the blackberry as the official state fruit.

In return, Republicans are offering their support to Democrats hoping to add the peach to the list of state emblems and symbols.

Alabama state flag
Bird: Yellowhammer
Fruit: Blackberry
Tree: Southern longleaf pine
Nut: Pecan
Horse: Racking horse
Reptile: Red-bellied turtle
It is already an extensive list, including - among others - a state horse, a state fossil and a state amphibian.

In Georgia, which made the peach its official state fruit back in 1995, Alabama's decision set pulses racing.

"Georgia is the Peach State," Robert Dickey, a past president of the Georgia Peach Council, told the New York Times.

"We're known internationally as the Peach State. We have always been the Peach State, and we think we have the best peaches in the world."

One of Georgia's county districts is named Peach County, and there are some 40 roads named Peach Street across the state.

Georgians drive around with "The Peach State" emblazoned on their licence plates, while the state's corporate logo includes a representation of its most famous fruit.

"I didn't realise Alabama had any peaches at all," Thomas Irvin, Georgia's agricultural commissioner, told the New York Times.

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