Groups concerned of USPS rural impact

Published on: Feb 6, 2013

Starting in August, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will no longer deliver regular mail to street addresses on Saturdays, yet will continue package deliveries. Rural groups fear the action will have a significant negative impact on rural America.

In a release from USPS, market research conducted by the Postal Service and independent research by major news organizations indicate that nearly seven out of ten Americans (70%) supported the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the Postal Service to reduce costs in its effort to return the organization to financial stability.

The Postal Service said mail will be delivered Monday through Friday. Mail will also still be delivered to P.O. boxes on Saturdays. Post office locations currently open on Saturdays will remain open on Saturdays. The operational plan for the new delivery schedule anticipates a combination of employee reassignment and attrition and is expected to achieve cost savings of approximately $2 billion annually when fully implemented.

The Postal Service is currently implementing major restructuring throughout its retail, delivery and mail processing operations. Since 2006, the Postal Service has reduced its annual cost base by approximately $15 billion, reduced the size of its career workforce by 193,000 or 28%, and has consolidated more than 200 mail processing locations, USPS said.

The Postal Service is an independent government agency and does not receive tax money to support its operations, USPS said. It relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations.

National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson said the elimination of Saturday delivery, coupled with the loss of good-paying postal jobs, spread over the entire nation, will negatively impact the economy.

“The impacts on rural America will be particularly harmful," Johnson said. "In many cases, local and regional newspaper delivery to outlying areas will be delayed for days. This not only damages the circulation numbers of the newspaper, but also devalues local information and advertising. Rural businesses do not need this economic blow delivered via the mailbox." 

Ed Luttrell, president of the National Grange, said six-days-a week mail service prevents rural Americans from suffering as they often don't have access to high-speed internet used by those in urban and suburban areas to conduct professional and personal business.

National Grange Legislative Director Grace Boatright said elderly Americans living in rural areas could stand to lose the most should more drastic steps be taken or requested by the USPS to remedy its failing financial condition.  

"The postal service provides delivery of medicines for many of our citizens in remote areas or who are less-than-agile, along with delivery of medications for livestock. Without dramatic reform from Congress, the USPS may be forced to continue eliminating much-needed services," Boatright said.  

While the change in the delivery schedule announced is one of the actions needed to restore the financial health of the Postal Service, USPS said "legislative change is urgently needed to address matters outside the Postal Service’s control." The Postal Service continues to seek legislation to provide it with greater flexibility to control costs and generate new revenue and encourages the 113th Congress to make postal reform legislation an urgent priority.

In recent months, the National Grange - America's oldest advocacy organization for rural America and agriculture - has encouraged Congress to relieve the USPS of their requirement to prepay future retiree health benefits, a mandate that costs the USPS $5 billion annually, as well as liberate the USPS to a private entity, free of congressional control.