OIA calls Buy American Tuna changes "potential disaster"
The U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs is aware of the Buy American provision, which deals with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's canned tuna product for the school lunch program and says DOI is concerned about changes that would impact the tuna canning industry in the territory.
“The specter of losing over 2,800 Star Kist employees and many anticipated jobs at Tri-Marine International with its $50 million investment to commence operations this year is a potential disaster. We are very concerned,” OIA executive director Nikolao Pula said via email to Samoa News from Washington D.C.
Congressman Faleomavaega Eni has called for the territory to band together with him and other members of Congress to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture not to weaken the current 100% Buy American provision, which is part of the USDA School Lunch Program and included in the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.
In the past several days, Samoa News has received public inquiries asking if DOI/OIA was aware of this provision as the issue was going through Congress last year and when it had been included in the Consolidated Act, which was signed into law last month. One person alleged that DOI was not aware of this provision at all.
Responding to Samoa News questions, OIA executive director Pula says an official letter dated Feb. 4, 2014, from Congressman Faleomavaega to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell regarding the USDA’s Buy America domestic tuna requirements issue was received by the Department late afternoon, Feb. 5. The Office of Insular Affairs received a copy of that letter Feb. 7.
“However, my staff and I had already received substantial information on the subject through folks who contacted our office and the media, including Samoa News,” Pula said. “This particular issue is not an Obama Administration driven initiative; it emanated from Congress. Moreover, it is directed at a program managed by the US Department of Agriculture, not Interior.”
Asked if there is anything that DOI-OIA can do to help American Samoa’s fight on this issue? Pula said the Office of Insular Affairs "will communicate with appropriate officials in USDA regarding the facts and consequences of Buy America Tuna policy for American Samoa.”