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Rural newspapers still fear loss of Saturday mail

By Al Cross, The Rural Blog (12/8/10)

  DECEMBER 28, 2010 --

Rural newspapers, still waiting to hear if the Postal Regulatory Commission will endorse the U.S. Postal Service's request to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, now worry that the push to reduce the federal deficit and national debt will give the proposal more momentum.

No matter what the PRC says this month, Congress is expected to guarantee Saturday delivery in whatever stopgap spending bill it passes. However, "The six-day mail question will become tougher as USPS tries to drill down to financial solutions," National Newspaper Association lobbyist Tonda Rush writes. "Though our principal allies on the Hill remain strong, we will need many more in 2011."

The concern goes beyond newspapers that use the mail to publish on Saturday or Friday, to the communities they serve. "It became clear during the PRC hearings that rural communities will be more affected than their urban counterparts," Rush told NNA members, citing testimony from the president of the National Grange, Edward Luttrell. He made some of the same points that the writer of this item made to the PRC: Rural areas have less access to high-speed Internet service, and rural people rely on six-day delivery for critical items such as prescription drugs.

Luttrell also said cutting a day of mail delivery would inhibit "the national trend to encourage and eequire greater mail voting and participation in elections," and hurt rural entrepreneurs. "Rural America has the highest proportion of individuals (compared to urban and suburban communities) who are either self employed or who work for someone who is self-employed," Luttrell said. "These businesses disproportionately benefit from the predictability of six-day postal delivery service. In fulfilling orders, in receiving payments, in complying with responses for legal, accounting and other basic services, the Postal Service provides unique and irreplaceable service advantages to micro-entrepreneurs operating in rural communities."

For Luttrell's full testimony, click here.

NNA is trying to keep the 200,000-member Grange involved recruit other rural organizations to help its lobbying effort, such as rural electric cooperatives, telephone companies, Farm Bureaus "and other uniquely rural community interests who might contact their own national leadership to urge a voice in this debate," Rush writes. "We have won it so far. But it hasn’t truly heated up yet. By mid-spring, we will be in the thick of it."

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