ASG funding secure, USDA tuna percentage at risk
U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law last Friday, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2014, in which reporting language was included about the U.S. Department of Agriculture canned tuna requirements.
The measure, approved by the U.S. House early last week and endorsed by the U.S. Senate at least 48-hours later, also includes more than $32 million in federal funding for American Samoa.
In an analysis by Washington D.C. based publication The Hill, the language contained in the bill, would require the USDA to issue a report on how the department can revise its “Buy American” standards, including looking at requiring less than 100% of canned tuna products for the school lunch program being U.S. produced.
With the federal measure now in affect, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has 90-days to revise the USDA Marketing Service Master Solicitation and Supplement specification for the purchase of canned tuna to require that all such tuna be landed by U.S. flagged vessels; not less than 75% of the value of such tuna be produced in the U.S.; and all such tuna be canned in the U.S. including its territories. A report is also to be submitted to Congress.
Congressman Faleomavaega Eni had informed the governor and the Fono last week that this provision was not passed in the “most transparent way” and efforts continue to “ensure that the USDA will not propose any ways that would weaken 100% made in America provisions...”
With the bill enacted, Samoa News is unable to obtain at this point information on whether or not USDA will accept any public comments on opposing the canned tuna reporting requirement. There is a local petition spearheaded by former Gov. Togiola Tulafono, opposing this provision, which will be sent to Faleomavaega.
AMERICAN SAMOA’S ALLOCATION
In his Jan.15 letter to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga stating the House had approved the federal bill, which includes USDA reporting language on canned tuna, Faleomavaega also informed the governor, with copies to the Fono, that this measure includes over $32.7 million for American Samoa.
Of the total amount, $22.75 million is for operations grants, with $2.66 million for ASG general operations and $854,000 for the High Court, Faleomavaega wrote and noted that $10.04 million is allocated to the Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) for American Samoa construction projects (or Capital Improvement Projects).
According to OIA’s FY 2014 budget justification submitted to Congress for the CIP funding, this money will be used to continue meeting critical infrastructure needs in American Samoa similar to previous years.
For example, $2 million will be utilized to design and renovate the Intensive Care Unit at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center. The new facility will improve patient services and help the Medical Center meet life safety code requirements.
An additional $1 million will help fund the construction of a multi-purpose building for the American Samoa Community College. The new 16,000 square foot building will house an auditorium and a student services center.
The $844,650 requested for roads will be utilized to make improvements to Tafeta, Faleniu and Mapusaga roads and to purchase needed heavy equipment for the Department of Public Works to provide proper maintenance for those roads.
About $375,000 will help fund the construction of a building at the overcrowded male Correctional Facility. The new two-story building will have the capacity to accommodate 100 inmates allowing for greater security and maintenance with all convicted male inmates housed in one building.
It also says that $3.4 million is to provide quality education for a growing population of students in American Samoa. About $1.6 million of the total will be used to build two classroom buildings at the Tafuna High School to alleviate overcrowding while $1 million will be used to construct a ten-classroom building at Pavaiai Elementary School. The remaining $800,000 will fund a new classroom building at Aua Elementary School. An additional $1 million will be used to purchase school buses to alleviate overcrowding. (In FY 2013, ASG’s CIP was $9.96 million.)
“In a time of significant budget cuts and short deadlines, I am pleased that we were able to keep ASG’s funding in place,” Faleomavaega wrote. “ASG’s inclusion underscores the commitment of Congress to the people of American Samoa, especially given that ASG continues to be the only State or Territory that receives funding for the operation of its local government.”