StarKist finds an ally in US Senator Orrin Hatch

Published on
January 31, 2018

StarKist’s efforts to keep its tuna processing plant in American Samoa viable got a boost last week when one of the most prominent lawmakers in the United States Senate filed a bill that seeks to streamline the process for commercial air service in the remote territory.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) filed legislation on 25 January that would reduce regulations for regional carriers who provide service between Tutuila, the largest American Samoan island, and the Manu`a Islands. It’s a companion bill to one filed by Del. Aumua Amata, the territory’s Congressional representative, in the House.

“I deeply appreciate Senator Hatch’s friendship for American Samoa, and his support of several such priorities for the territory, including the American Samoa Economic Development Credit and the territorial bank,” Amata said in a statement last week.

In a statement, StarKist said maintaining a processing and canning plant in the U.S. territory is becoming more challenging as foreign competitors, especially those in China and Thailand, have lower costs and more subsidies. 

“StarKist, on the other hand, is trying to sustain a business on U.S. soil and economic efficiency should not be hampered by restrictive processes,” the company said. 

StarKist employs about 2,300 people, which equates to roughly four percent of the territory’s population.

Hatch’s support for the bills could be due in part to the fact that Utah is home to a significant population of Samoans who live in the mainland United States. 

The airline bill isn’t the only way Hatch is trying to help the territory or StarKist. In late December, just days after an economic development credit extension was removed from a tax reform bill, Hatch included it in a bill with other tax credit extensions.

StarKist has called the credit an essential incentive critical for maintaining the company’s operations in American Samoa.

The Utah senator’s weight behind these proposals could be valuable. Last year, Hatch was rated the body’s most effective legislator by both the Center for Effective Lawmaking and FiscalNote

Hatch, who has been in the Senate since 1977, announced he would not seek another term after his current one expires early next year.

“In light of these challenges, we appreciate Senator Hatch’s leadership and ongoing attention to strengthen the economic foundation of American Samoa to benefit the territory’s future,” StarKist said.  “We applaud Senator Hatch’s support to ensure that issues in American Samoa are addressed for the good of the local American Samoan economy and people.”

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