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The Obama administration is backing plans to end Saturday mail delivery and to allow the cost of postage to rise above the inflation rate.

But the administration is not endorsing the Postal Service’s plans to lay off as many as 120,000 workers, according to the Washington Post

The administration’s opinion on the Postal Service was contained in the President’s proposal to cut federal spending that was released yesterday. The White House said its proposal would save the USPS more than $20 billion over the next few years.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said ending Saturday delivery “will only make matters worse and accelerate the Postal Service’s death spiral.”

Meanwhile, 75 members of Congress have called on the Postal Regulatory Commission to block the Postal Service’s plans to close up to 3,700 post offices.

ConAgra Foods’ first quarter profit dropped by 42%, largely as a result of higher costs at the company’s food division, which produces the Chef Boyardee and Health Choice brands. Higher ingredient costs are squeezing all food companies. 

• As the droughts in Texas continue, some scientists are trying to figure out how to save fish dying in dried-up rivers. 

• Brush fires are moving in rural Australia

• In another part of the White House’s debt reduction plan, President Obama proposes to eliminate guaranteed annual payments to grain and cotton farmers and to increase the premiums they pay for crop insurance. Spending for land conservation would also be cut.

The plan says the aim is to “reform agricultural subsidies — subsidies that a lot of times pay large farms for crops that they don’t grow.” Philip Brasher in the Des Moines Register writes

The plan will face stiff opposition in Congress because of Republican objection to tax increases that Obama is proposing, but the proposals provide a road map for cutting farm spending as a congressional supercommittee works on a plan this fall to cut the deficit by more than $1 trillion over 10 years.

“The message is that the president went large, he went big,” said Jon Doggett, a lobbyist for the National Corn Growers Association.

The government made $4.8 billion in direct payments to farmers and landowners in 2010, plus an additional $3.4 billion through programs that conserve land or subsidize the cost of farm measures that reduce pollution or save water. Iowans received $473 million in direct payments, the most of any state, followed by Illinois with $419 million and Texas with $389 million.

DTN’s Chris Clayton quotes Republicans in Congress as saying the President’s plan “is not credible.” The leading Republicans on the House and Senate Ag committees criticize the President’s proposal to cut $33 billion in ag spending over the next ten years. 

Good reporting here by Jessica Robinson at KPLU radio on the death of veteran miner Larry Marek in a rockfall at the Lucky Friday silver mine in northern Idaho in late spring. She finds that the federal mine safety agency “did not adequately ensure the safety of workers at Lucky Friday.” 

• Public school teachers are retiring at unusually high rates in Wisconsin after the state legislature passed a law restricting public employees’ collective-bargaining rights. 

 

 

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