Statement by Russ Mentzer
President and CEO of King & Prince Seafood Corporation
April 1, 2004
My name is Russ Mentzer and I am President and Chief Executive Officer of King & Prince Seafood Corporation in Brunswick, Georgia. King & Prince Seafood Corporation is an employee owned processor of value added seafood primarily shrimp. We are owned by our 530 employee owners and it is on their behalf that I am here today.
I hope you don't take this personally, but I would much rather be back in Brunswick running my business that being here in Washington , DC with you today. King & Prince Seafood has been in business for 54 years. We have always dealt with the ups and downs of the marketplace and had good years and bad.
I am outraged that I am forced to come to Washington to defend my business from the actions of my government.
Let me be clear--my business depends on imported shrimp. Since imports account for 90% of shrimp sold in the U.S. , I am not alone. Thousands of other businesses process and serve imported shrimp, and like me this case threatens them and their workers.
We create exciting new products for restaurant chains. Products that may be breaded, marinated, sauced and blended with other ingredients that are promoted by restaurant chains throughout the U.S. How do we create exciting new products if less shrimp at higher prices become a reality?
My question to the government, and specifically to the Commerce Department and International Trade Commission, is this: Why are shrimp producing jobs more important than our company's shrimp-processing jobs. U.S. trade laws are not supposed to put Americans out of work, but that is just what is going to happen if huge duties are placed on imported shrimp as a result of this trade case.
I am angry that my own government is putting my business and my employees at risk because a small segment of the shrimp industry refuses to modernize. For this, I am going to be forced to pay a tax. What's even more outrageous is that revenues from this tax are going directly to the shrimpers and their lawyers who stand to gain almost $1 million per year.
And for what? Except for enriching a few shrimpers, placing a tax on shrimp imports will do nothing to help the industry as shrimpers in this country simply can't pull more shrimp from the ocean than they are doing now. Instead, the tax is going to hurt businesses like mine, who play by the rules, are willing to compete globally and who have never sought nor wanted government handouts.
I want to spend my time running my business, working with my employees and competing in the marketplace. I have never run to Washington to solve my business problems but I am left with no choice but to come here to fight this petition. I want the government to fully understand what they are doing to my business and to thousands of other businesses like mine, if they approve this baseless petition.