Farmers and politicians in Maine are sounding the alarm after discovering thousands of baby chickens have arrived dead to poultry farms following transport through the United States Postal Service in recent weeks.
What are the details?
The Press Herald first reported on the issue, telling the story of poultry farmer Pauline Henderson, who received a shipment of 800 chicks last week — and every one of them was dead.
"We've never had a problem like this before," she told the local newspaper. "Usually they arrive every three weeks like clockwork, and out of 100 birds you may have one or two that die in shipping."
Henderson is left with few alternatives, because it is cost-prohibitive to pay employees to pick the chicks up from hatcheries out of state, and the New York Post reported that the USPS "is the only mail service that ships live chicks."
But Henderson, who owns and operates Pine Tree Poultry in New Sharon, is not the only grower who has this problem.
Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) says her office has received dozens of complaints about large shipments of chicks arriving dead via USPS, and by her count, farmers reported at least 4,800 birds killed during transport over the past few weeks.
Pingree blames recent changes introduced to the USPS by the Trump administration, as the agency struggles with low mail volume due to the COVID-19 crisis.
"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.
"This is a system that's always worked well before and it's worked very well until these changes started being made," she added.
What about the postmaster general?
New Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has come under fire from Democrats over the reforms.
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. In Maine, two mail-sorting machines were dismantled at the state's postal distribution hub.
Last week, DeJoy issued a statement saying that while he believes "significant reforms" are needed at the USPS, he will put them on hold for now.
"To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail," he wrote, "I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded."