At least 4,800 chicks shipped to Maine farmers through the U.S. Postal Service have arrived dead in the recent weeks since rapid cuts hit the federal mail carrier's operations, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said.
Pingree, a Maine Democrat, is raising the issue of the dead chicks and the losses farms are facing in a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and U.S. Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sonny Perdue, The Portland Press Herald reported Wednesday.
Pauline Henderson, who owns Pine Tree Poultry in New Sharon, Maine, told the newspaper she was shocked last week when all of the 800 chicks sent to her from a hatchery in Pennsylvania were dead.
"Usually they arrive every three weeks like clockwork," she said. "And out of 100 birds you may have one or two that die in shipping."
Henderson told the newspaper thousands of birds that moved through the Postal Service's processing center in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, were also dead, impacting several farms in Maine and New Hampshire.
The Postal Service's media contact for the Eastern U.S. did not immediately return a Press Herald reporter's message Wednesday.
"Chaos they've created"
"It's one more of the consequences of this disorganization, this sort of chaos they've created at the post office and nobody thought through when they were thinking of slowing down the mail," Pingree said, adding that her office has received dozens of complaints from farmers and others trying to raise a small flock of chickens in the backyard.
"And can you imagine, you have young kids and they are getting all excited about having a backyard flock and you go to the post office and that's what you find?"
Pingree said she isn't sure if Perdue is aware of how the changes in the Postal Service are impacting smaller poultry farmers in the U.S. "This is a system that's always worked before and it's worked very well until these changes started being made," she said.
DeJoy, a Republican donor who's the first postmaster general who did not come from the ranks of the Postal Service, took control of the agency in June and has since swiftly engineered cuts and operational changes that are disrupting mail delivery operations.
He announced Tuesday he wouldto mail delivery that critics blamed for widespread delays and warned could disrupt the , which is expected to bring a surge of mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.
DeJoy is scheduled toon Friday.
President Donald Trump made clear last week that he was blocking $25 billion in emergency aid to the Postal Service, acknowledging he wanted to curtail election mail operations, as well as a Democratic proposal to provide $3.6 billion in additional election money to the states to help process mail-in ballots.
Those funds are tangled in a broader coronavirus aid package that was approved in the House but stalled in the Senate.
Rising demand for live birds
The Postal Service is the only entity that ships live chicks and other small animals and has done so since 1918, according to the service's website.
Backyard poultry flocks have become increasingly popular in recent years among Americans eager for fresh eggs and an unusual hobby. Demand for live chickens also rose earlier this year amid concerns that the pandemic could disrupt food supplies.
Public health experts say it's important for people to follow proper, which can carry salmonella.
People shouldn't eat or drink anything while near their outside flock, and always wash their hands with soap and running water after touching their birds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those with young children should be especially mindful, as kids will often want to hug birds, then put their hands in their mouths, experts advise.
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