[imgcontainer left] [img:Obama_welcome_20120321210649_640_480.jpeg] [source]KJRH[/source] KJRH has a great collection of the signs people in Cushing, Oklahoma, have put up to welcome President Obama to their town. This [/imgcontainer]

Save The Post Office reports that the Postal Service’s plans to consolidate over 200 mail processing plants, reducing service standards in the process, would result in a 7.7 percent drop in total mail volume. The data was revealed in testimony before the Postal Regulatory Commission this week.

“That translates into $5.2 billion in gross revenue losses, and $1.9 billion in net contribution losses (the contribution loss figures in lower costs for lower volumes),” Save The Post Office reports. “Losses like that would wipe out nearly all of the $2.6 billion in cost savings the Network Rationalization plan hopes to achieve.”

The revenue and volume declines are “significantly greater” than what was provided in earlier testimony.

These numbers come from a market research study the Postal Service began and then halted. “These new numbers provide circumstantial evidence that when the Postal Service saw the results of what we now know as the Phase-1 research back in late September or early October, it realized the numbers were devastating to their case for the consolidation plan,” Save The Post Office writes.

• President Obama came to Cushing, Oklahoma, today to announce that he was directing federal agencies to fast-track a 485-mile oil pipeline to the Gulf Coast. This is the lower leg of the contentious Keystone XL pipeline that would begin in Canada.

The northern end of the pipeline is stalled, as federal and Nebraska state officials wait to see if TransCanada, the company building Keystone, can route the pipeline around environmentally sensitive areas.

Republicans have criticized President Obama for failing to grant a permit to the full Keystone XL pipeline, saying his decision is one of the reasons gasoline prices have risen. 

Bloomberg, meanwhile, is reporting that the President’s promise to expedite the review of the pipeline won’t speed up the timeline for the project. Construction is to begin in June and the pipeline is expected to be ready for use in 2013. 

• A Nebraska judge has thrown out Republican Party’s claims that former senator Bob Kerrey falsified his residency when he registered to vote last month in the state — just prior to Kerrey’s announcement that he intended to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Ben Nelson.

The Republican Party “has not submitted any evidence that Mr. Kerrey did not intend to be a resident of this state and reside at the address he gave,” said District Judge Steven Burns, according to the Omaha World-Herald. “It has submitted no evidence to suggest that Mr. Kerrey knowingly and willfully violated any law of the State of Nebraska.” 

Kerrey, a former governor and senator, has lived the last 12 years in New York City. He registered to vote from his sister’s address in Omaha two days before the filing deadline for the Senate race.

Former senator Bob Kerrey’s comeback campaign in Nebraska isn’t going so well. Even liberal publications (such as TPM) are describing Kerrey’s campaign as “clumsy.” 

• Reporter Adam Sulfridge of the Corbin (Kentucky) Times-Tribune found that dry counties have higher rates of drink driving crashes than counties that allow alcohol sales. 

• The next Republican primary is Saturday in Louisiana. The Washington Post says Mitt Romney may do better there because it has fewer rural residents than “any other Southern state.” 

That isn’t exactly true, the part about the percent of rural residents, according to the U.S. Census. Louisiana has more rural residents than South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Texas and Florida. We’ll see if the Romney part is correct on Saturday.

• Warm winter weather has turned the Great Plains grasslands “into a tinderbox,” according to the AP. “Wildfires have already scorched thousands of acres, destroyed rural homes and caused two deaths.” 

• The Texas drought of 2011 cost agriculture $7.62 billion in losses, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. It was the driest year in the state’s history. 

• The Federal Communications Commission is moving forward on plans to turn satellite spectrum owned by Dish Network into a wireless network that could extend broadband access in rural areas. 

The FCC turned down a similar plan by LightSquared after that company’s network was found to interfere with global position service providers. Dish’s spectrum doesn’t appear to have the same problem.

•A group of bee keepers is petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency to help curb the use of pesticides they believe are killing their hives. 

“EPA has an obligation to protect pollinators from the threat of pesticides,” petitioner Jeff Anderson of California Minnesota Honey Farms said in a statement. “The agency has failed to adequately regulate pesticides harmful to pollinators despite scientific and on-the-ground evidence presented by academics and beekeepers.”

• Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chair, would cut the Ag Department budget by $180 million over ten years, according to an analysis by Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

Ryan has proposed a Republican version of the federal budget. Jerry Hagstrom at DTN writes about the agriculture portion of the Ryan budget. 

“The House Republican proposal also upends a bipartisan agreement on the amount of federal support for agriculture programs and will make it extremely difficult to craft a new farm bill this year,” Conrad said in a news release.

“Leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees had agreed to cut $23 billion in agriculture, conservation and nutrition program funding in the new farm bill to assist with deficit reduction,” Conrad said. “However, the House Republican proposal calls for about $180 billion in cuts to farm bill programs, including $31 billion to commodity and crop insurance programs, $133.5 billion to nutrition assistance programs, and about $16 billion to conservation programs.”

Here is the Reuters breakdown on how the Ryan budget would affect the USDA. 

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