A Grand Alliance Goes to Farm Aid
(This article first appeared in the January-February 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service (AGA) was part of Farm Aid 2016’s HOMEGROWN Village. The AGA booth demonstrated the importance of maintaining a public Postal Service that connects Americans at every income level in cities, towns and villages across America, including rural areas with few other communication options.
At the HOMEGROWN Village, in Bristow, VA, concertgoers viewed the AGA video featuring Willie Nelson, took their picture with Ben Franklin and brainstormed on new ways the Postal Service can further serve the community. Ideas include:
- Access to high-speed internet service
- More staff and longer hours at neighborhood post offices
- Electric vehicle charging stations
- Letter carriers checking-in on seniors and people with mobility issues
- Delivery of fresh produce directly from farms to households
Farm Aid, whose mission is to create a vibrant family farm system of agriculture in America, is a founding member of A Grand Alliance, along with more than 130 labor, civil rights, faith and community organizations.
“The universal, public Postal Service is an essential link for farmers and rural residents,” said populist radio commentator Jim Hightower, who appeared with Nelson in AGA’s video. “There are places where UPS or FedEx or other private companies just won’t go. But, the U.S. Postal Service delivers everywhere – in every community, no matter how small or large.”
“Many rural communities are bank deserts with few if any financial services available,” said APWU President Dimondstein. “Services like ATM withdrawals, electronic fund transfers and even small loans could save rural families thousands of dollars in fees. That’s the kind of lifeline we need in these small town, farm communities.”
Postal Services: Essential to Rural Communities
For many years, those aimed at dismantling the Postal Service pointed to the rise of internet access to proclaim the coming of the end of mail. However, a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) casts serious doubt on the idea that first-class mail will continue to decline.
In October 2016, the GAO issued a report on the relationship between broadband use and the use of postal services. While households with broadband access send less “transactional mail,” such as bill payments, in recent years broadband use may not have had a statistically significant effect on “correspondence mail,” including greeting cards and letters.
The GAO found residents of rural areas generally put a high value on postal services. Importantly, correspondence mail volume remained the same, regardless of broadband access. Additionally, post office visits remain higher in rural areas compared to other areas, regardless of broadband access. This might be due to the valuable role the local post office has in small communities.
Their findings also suggest concerns over privacy and the security of internet communications may be a factor causing consumers to go back to using first-class mail.
Understanding the relationship between postal services and new technologies is critical. “There’s simply no substitute for the vital service our post offices provide—even as we continue to make important advances in rural broadband,” said Senator McCaskill of Missouri, who, along with Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota, requested the study. “We’ve got to preserve and improve that service for the folks who rely on it the most.”
To read the survey, go to www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-811.