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Dismantling the postal service hurts farmers and rural communities

One of the more exciting days on the farm is the one where we get a call just after 6 AM from the local post office telling us our hen chicks have arrived. After a short drive to pick up these small balls of fluff, we can go about giving them the care they need so they can form our next pasture-raised laying flock.

There is joy in giving these small lives a good start, but what happens when delivery is delayed and you open the box to find none of them left alive?

Baby chicks

Postal service under attack

The recent history of the United States Postal Service (USPS) has featured more government hindrance than support. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 restricted the ability of the USPS to offer new services and adjust its pricing. Even worse, it required that it prefund all retiree health care benefits, creating significant debt. Since that time, the USPS has shown a loss each fiscal year.  Prior to the 2006 act, it had shown a surplus four years running.  

Now, we have a Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, who is actively working to dismantle the USPS. High speed sorting machines are being removed, taken apart, and put into storage units. The well-known blue collection boxes are being removed from many locations. And, even though DeJoy says he will suspend further actions until after the election, he will not reverse what has been done and he will continue with the process after November 3.

Small, diversified farms need the USPS

The only delivery service that will handle the shipment of live poultry chicks is the United States Postal Service. Fedex will not handle them.  UPS will not handle them. If a small diversified farm wanted to add poultry for soil fertility and egg sales, these newly hatched birds historically arrived safe and sound at their destination under the auspices of the USPS — until recently.

Now, due to the mismanagement of the postal services by the Postmaster General, deliveries of all types are being delayed — and farms are receiving lifeless chicks in their shipping boxes. Not surprisingly, it is the small to intermediate sized farms and hatcheries who rely on the USPS for shipping, while the supersized confinement operations can manage to pay private delivery services or develop their own hatchery system.

Do you prefer to have the option of buying eggs from a local farmer who has a flock of pastured egg layers? Does it mean something to you that there are a limited number of small to mid-sized hatcheries that maintain the diversity of poultry breeds?  DeJoy’s actions delay the mail and will limit farming and hatchery operations severely, while doing little to hinder large, corporate agriculture operations.

If they can’t deliver, who suffers?

The USPS is a service that many have long taken for granted. But now the direct threat to the people by its removal is becoming clear:

  • Military veterans and others who rely on the postal service for medication delivery are receiving their prescriptions late, putting them at risk.
  • Persons who cannot secure internet service for online banking and bill paying are being charged for late fees on bills that they feel they have paid on time.
  • Small businesses that rely on the USPS for lower shipping rates are considering closing because they cannot ship their products in a timely manner.
  • Official government correspondence, such as drivers licenses, vehicle registrations, and absentee ballots are all threatened with delay.

This national service is not meant to be profitable

It is a matter of simple mathematics. The infrastructure for any communications service costs more per delivery in remote and less populated areas. If profit is the only motivation for offering a service, it is unlikely that such a service will be reliably provided to a significant portion of the United States.  The UPS (United Parcel Service) surcharge page confirms this while providing a list of 5000 US Zip Codes that require additional fees:

“Providing service to less populous or accessible domestic and international areas carries higher operating costs. The delivery and extended area surcharges are assessed to more accurately reflect the cost of providing service to these areas.”   

Crippling the US Postal Service is a terrible blow to rural and remote areas that are already behind when it comes to many other services. But the USPS has been in place for over a century, delivering to all addresses, six days a week, for a reasonable price. This is one entity that already has the infrastructure in place to serve all people, regardless of location and affluence.  And, there is currently nothing in place to stand in the gap when the USPS is removed or damaged.

Despite everything, analysis seems to indicate that the USPS was doing a decent job even with government divestment. But, it is difficult to see how it can continue to operate without changes in policy.  This service of the people deserves the support of the government to better serve those people.

We have a valuable system in place that needs care and support, not dismantling.

You can help make a difference! Click on the action button below and send a letter to your Senators telling them to save our postal service!

Lead photo: photolibrarian | Flickr

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Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network is dedicated to advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide. Follow @pesticideaction

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