Federal Commercial Mail is the term used when referring to all official correspondences mailed by Cooperative Extension Service offices, whether by postal meter (first class mail) or by bulk mail (200 or more pieces, mailed with the appropriate permit number).

Federal Commercial mail is for OFFICIAL BUSINESS USE only. It can only be used by state and county Extension employees and is limited to agents, specialists, and administration. Assistants, interns, secretaries, and leaders are NOT to co-sign or sign mail sent by Federal Commercial mail.


  1. Official letterhead is required at the top of all mailings, including newsletters. "Cooperative Extension Service" must appear at the top of the page. The public notification non-discrimination statement must be at the bottom of the page. Any changes must be approved by the Federal Commercial Mail Officer.
  2. Content of mailing must relate to activities in furtherance of Extension work.
  3. The only authorized return address on a mailing is:
    University of Kentucky
    Your county name
    Your county address
  4. Use authorized envelopes only.


  1. No advertising, buying, selling, dealers' lists, list of commodities that may be purchased though the Extension office, purchase of livestock, trade for anyone other than agencies of the Federal government, and soliciting is allowed.
  2. Contests, prizes, and awards may be included. Do not use names of persons or firms sponsoring contest, or names of donors and amounts. Use "in appreciation to" instead of "sponsored by."
  3. Any item in which there is a charge (i.e.: soil samples, publications) must have paid postage.
  4. Information on commercial, religious, or political activities may NOT be sent.
  5. No advertising or business of fairs, livestock shows and livestock sales except for information on displays and exhibits to persons enrolled in Extension program may be sent.
  6. No established organizations' and associations' business may be sent. This includes State Department of Agriculture, University, breeder's associations, farm bureaus, soil conservation districts, DHIA, etc. This includes information on dues, called meetings, or promotion of the organization. This does not pertain to 4-H clubs and other groups organized and directly supervised by extension agents in accordance to their Plan of Work. In order to assist in organizing, information and announcements of meetings can be mailed until the group is organized and officers are functioning.
  7. No personal messages, holiday greetings nor farewells may be sent.
  8. Prices cannot be listed except for cost of Extension events, meals of approved Extension meetings, 4-H Camp, soil samples, bulletins, and services.
  9. Use of credit lines is allowed, but smaller type should be used.
  10. Publications purchased from non-governmental agencies cannot be mailed.
  11. Mail pertaining to free social and recreational activities sponsored solely by the Cooperative Extension Service may be mailed. It should be stated that the activity is part of the educational programs of Extension.

Any item that does not meet Federal Commercial mail requirements listed above can be mailed using postage stamps.


  1. All correspondence must be signed by an agent and must include the agent's title and typed name.
  2. Secretaries may sign the agent's name with permission. The secretary should not initial.
  3. Rubber stamp signatures are allowed.
  4. Signature or typed name may be omitted on postcards if space is limited.
  5. Joint signatures are allowed only by persons with Federal Commercial mail privilege (agents, specialists, and administration only).
  6. Signatures of non-authorized people should not appear.
  7. The person who signs the letter or enclosure is responsible for the correctness of the mailing with regard to the requirements and restrictions listed on this page.

Mailing lists

  1. Mail lists should be updated every 95 days.
  2. Mailing lists are NOT to be distributed outside the Cooperative Extension Service unless approved by the Associate Director of Cooperative Extension Service. They are not federal or public record or for use by any other federal agency. Agents should approve distribution of any list within the Cooperative Extension Service.

Self mailers

  1. Self mailers are letters, circulars, or newsletters sent without envelopes. They must use Cooperative Extension Service letterheads.
  2. Fold to standard letter size, if possible, and fasten with a gummed fastener (preferred).
  3. No message should appear on the address side.

Use of brand names

  1. Avoid using trade and brand names.
  2. If a brand name is used, use an appropriate disclaimer such as "The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Cooperative Extension Service is implied."

Postage meters

  1. Postage meters that are used for Federal Commercial Mail must follow all Federal Commercial Mail regulations.
  2. Meters should be set at least once every six months.
  3. The extension office can get a refund from the post office for spoiled metered mail. Use form 3533 from the post office. This must be done within a year.
  4. County Extension Offices or Extension organizations may purchase a postage meter to use for non-Federal Commercial mail. Federal regulations for mail will not apply to mail metered on an independent meter. Offices need to check with local postmaster on regulations governing meter.

All secretarial staff and contact agent for Federal Commercial Mail need to complete the Federal Commercial Mail Course on the Web. Contact Federal Commercial Mail Officer at UK for information.

Reducing Costs

Reduce volume of mail

  • Consolidate daily mail in office. Non-critical mail to the same address can be collected over 2-3 days and sent in one envelope.
  • Eliminate unnecessary mailings of newsletters, publications, etc. if they can be hand delivered. Do mailings less often. Eliminate duplicate mailing to a family.
  • Update mailing list every 95 days. Check for deaths, correct addresses, moves, etc.
  • Evaluate use of mail and newsletters. Are newsletters of value to receiver? Are newsletters of quality presentation and content? Are uses of recipes and craft patterns limited and of educational value?

Reduce size or weight of mail

  • Fold to standard envelop size when possible.
  • Design materials to fit into envelop (handouts, certificates, etc).
  • Use light weight packing materials.
  • Use lighter weight paper.
  • Use fewer sheets of paper.
  • Less is better.

Mail classifications

  • Use bulk mailings ( a mailing of 200 pieces or more of like-sized items). Combine smaller mailings over 2-3 days to meet bulk requirement of numbers.
  • Use 3rd and 4th class to send out publications. (Exception: 1st and 3rd class rates are the same for the first 5 ounces.)
  • Anticipate deadlines to avoid first class mailing.

Other suggestions

  • Check commercial parcel services and compare rates. Use the lowest rate.
  • Ask your postmaster about how to save money.
  • Use presort. For specific instruction on bundling, check with your postmaster.

Shipping Dangerous Materials

The surface and air shipment of dangerous materials within the U.S. is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Hazardous Materials Regulations. International shipments are also controlled by the International Air Transportation Association's Dangerous Materials Regulations. These rules set the responsibilities for institutions and individuals shipping dangerous materials, which include the following hazard classes: explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids and solids, oxidizers, re-actives, poisons, infectious substances, radioactive materials, and corrosive materials.

The regulations (1) require proper classification, packaging, labeling, and documentation of all shipments, (2) require training for anyone who prepares or offers materials for shipment, and (3) set penalties and fines for noncompliance. Any faculty, staff, or student associated with the University of Kentucky who is involved in shipping hazardous materials is subject to these rules. While many of our laboratories are likely to be impacted, other units may be impacted and must be sensitive to common items that may meet the hazardous materials definition. For example, paint may be covered as a flammable liquid and shock absorbers as a compressed gas.

Noncompliance risks to the University of Kentucky, the unit, and the individuals involved in shipping are very significant. The worst scenario would be for an improperly shipped package to cause an airline disaster. A more likely event--the discovery of a leaking package--could result in a large fine to the University. Even the technical violation of offering an improperly labeled container for shipment, or failure to train UK employees, could result in a citation or a fine. Individuals failing to comply with the regulations are subject to civil and even criminal prosecution.

We do not want any of these problems to occur and request your serious attention to this issue. We are arranging to have the required training provided at a site on campus as soon as possible and will be working with the appropriate administrators to identify who must attend this training.

Anyone needing assistance in preparing hazardous materials for shipment should contact the Hazardous Materials Management office (859-323-6280). In order to keep you up to date on this issue, we will be posting information on our web pages.