Amy Mayer

Reporter

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also  previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth.  She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times,  Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.

Amy has a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from Wellesley College and a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Amy’s favorite public radio program is The World.

Ways to Connect

courtesy Iowans for Sam Clovis

As President Donald Trump continues to fill political appointments, his nomination for the top science job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is raising unique concerns.

Trump has chosen Iowan Sam Clovis to be undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics. Clovis served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force, has a doctorate in public administration, and taught economics at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Sioux City is also where he gained a following as a conservative talk show host.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Several new gun-related measures enacted during the 2017 Iowa legislative session are taking effect and Iowa Public Radio is exploring their implications for the state. But it’s hard to follow gun news if you don’t speak the language. Come along on visits to Camp Dodge, Brownells retail gun shop, and the Story County Sheriff’s office to learn about different types of firearms.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The dairy show at the Iowa State Fair continues into Saturday and cows are milked throughout each day. All the milk collected this year at the fair will be dumped.

In years past, milk collected from dairy cows during the state fair was sold to a Des Moines area co-op for production into cheese. But this year, the longstanding buyer backed out and no one else stepped up.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Iowa State University’s enrollment has escalated since 2009, while the state’s appropriation to the school has plunged. That’s the message interim President Ben Allen presented to the Board of Regents tuition task force today in Ames.

Clay Masters / IPR

Iowa farmers are making land use decisions aimed at helping farm chemical runoff curb into streams, rivers and, ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico. This year’s dead zone in Gulf is the biggest one ever, and Iowa’s secretary of agriculture says more changes are needed. Bill Northey says cover crops, which keep roots in the ground and prevent nutrients and soil from washing away, are a key practice. But he says statewide only about three to four percent of farmland gets a cover crop. 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Chemical runoff from Midwest farm fields is contributing to the largest so-called dead zone on record in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Scientists have mapped the size of the oxygen-deprived region in the Gulf since 1985. This year’s is estimated at more than 8,700 square miles, which is about the size of New Jersey.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR

 

On a cloudy summer day, Iowa farmer Wendy Johnson lifts the corner of a mobile chicken tractor, a lightweight plastic frame covered in wire mesh that has corralled her month-old meat chickens for a few days, and frees several dozen birds to peck the surrounding area at will. Soon, she’ll sell these chickens to customers at local markets in eastern Iowa.

Mad Cow Disease Detected In Alabama

Jul 18, 2017

A case of mad cow disease has been found in a cow in Alabama.

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists confirmed Tuesday that an 11-year-old cow found in an Alabama livestock market suffered from the neurologic cattle disease, formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The animal “at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States,” according to the USDA.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

This summer's hot weather could bring down soybean yields for some farmers.

Iowa State University extension is alerting farmers that hot, dry conditions are what the disease charcoal rot waits for. Daren Mueller, an ISU extension plant pathologist, says once it attacks, there's little a farmer can do.

"At this point it's more of trying to scout and figure out what fields would have that pathogen in it to make decisions in future years," he says, "the next time you planted soybeans."

Amy Mayer/IPR

As Highway 30 enters Denison, a city of 8,000, the national fast food chains stand next to Mexican groceries and restaurants. In this small city near the Nebraska border, waves of immigrants have been arriving since at least the 1980s.

 

In small, rural, diverse towns like this one, religious institutions can play an important role. Often, they provide needed social services. Many are a small slice of home. And they can serve as some of the most prominent points of connection between the different communities in town.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR

The Diocese of Sioux City is rolling out changes that will close or consolidate many Catholic churches in northwest Iowa as part of its Ministry 2025 plan.

A shortage of priests and declining participation in weekly Mass fueled the Diocese to find more efficient ways to serve Catholic communities. Father Paul Kelly celebrates Mass in English and Spanish at St. Rose of Lima in Denison, a small western Iowa city that may soon welcome more parishioners from nearby communities.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas, awarded nearly $218 million to Kansas corn farmers after finding seed giant Syngenta AG was negligent when it introduced strains of genetically engineered corn seed into the marketplace that were not approved for import by the Chinese government.  

The eight-member jury returned its $217,700,000 verdict after an 18-day-long trial, the first of eight certified class actions lawsuits against Syngenta brought in state court.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

President Donald Trump will be in Cedar Rapids tomorrow. He will tour Kirkwood Community College with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The visit will give them a look at advanced agriculture technologies offered in the country’s largest two-year agriculture program, and may offer an opportunity to speak on farm policy.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Two giants of American agriculture and industry are closer to becoming one.

 

Dow and DuPont, both leaders in agricultural chemicals and seeds, among other products, received approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to move ahead with a merger, provided they divest several products.

 

file: Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

President Trump is touting the need to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, and water transportation systems this week and farmers are among those hoping to benefit from new federal attention to infrastructure.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Sales of organic food reportedly climbed to record highs in 2016, an indication organics are edging toward the mainstream.

 

In a new industry report, the Organic Trade Association says American consumers spent $43 billion on organic products in 2016, which accounts for more than 5 percent of total U.S. food sales, a high water mark for the organic industry.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Consolidation of agriculture companies continues, as several deals move toward completion this summer.

The state-owned ChemChina purchase of Syngenta is likely to be the first to close, perhaps as soon as next month. Iowa’s homegrown agribusiness Pioneer, already a subsidiary of DuPont, will be swallowed up by chemical giant Dow. And Bayer, the German maker of aspirin and ag chemicals, is poised to buy Monsanto.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) pushed for careful oversight of these deals. He says it’s clear now they’re all likely to move forward.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Iowa State University’s Tractor Pull Club is competing in the International Quarter-Scale Student Tractor Design Competition this week. Students from mechanical, industrial, and agriculture and biosystems engineering build a small tractor, about the size of a ride-on lawn mower, that tries to outperform the others in tests of brute strength, durability and maneuverability.

This year 30 schools are sending teams to Peoria, Illinois and ISU’s club is hoping a winning innovation from last year will help it finish near the top.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

President Donald Trump has sent a proposed budget to Congress that includes slashing $38 billion from farm bill programs, including crop insurance and nutrition supports, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says reducing crop insurance subsidies would leave taxpayers on the hook to pay for farm damages from natural disasters.

The University of Iowa Athletics Department has settled a discrimination case with its former field hockey coach.

Tracey Griesbaum was fired in 2014 over complaints about her coaching that a university investigation failed to confirm. She sued the department on grounds of gender and sexual orientation discrimination and her case was scheduled to go to trial in June.

Earlier this month, a related trial involving a former UI athletics administrator ended with a jury awarding Jane Meyer $874-thousand in back wages plus $1.4 million in damages.

Amy Mayer/IPR

A leading research center focused on local farmers and environmental conservation is hanging on by a thread, even as the movement to diversify agriculture, which it helped launch, continues to thrive.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Belt-tightening has been the trend for row-crop farmers in the Midwest for the past several years as corn and soybean prices remain low. Reducing application of expensive herbicides may be tempting to save money, but that’s a strategy that could result in severe economic consequences down the road.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR

A multidisciplinary Iowa State University team will present its work this week at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C.

Students from apparel design and engineering worked together to create a cotton jacket fitted with nine flexible solar panels.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

As the push to replace the Affordable Care Act moves to the Senate, Iowa's senior senator says that chamber will avoid some of the missteps he saw in the House.

Republican Chuck Grassley says the Senate won't bring a healthcare bill to the floor for a vote until 51 members have committed support. He's hopeful that majority will result in a smooth vote, on the first try.

Amy Mayer/IPR

 

This summer, in cornfields in Iowa and Nebraska, about a thousand small point-and-shoot digital cameras will be enclosed in waterproof cases, mounted on poles and attached to solar-powered battery chargers. They will take pictures every ten minutes as plants grow; all part of a plan to create better seeds.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR

For 10 years a program from Iowa State University has helped prepare first-time candidates to run for political office. It’s held during odd years and this year’s program has attracted a record number of participants.

Three day-long programs in Ames are offering tips and tools for running a campaign and getting elected, from fundraising and campaign finance rules to communication strategies and social media.

The nation has a new agriculture secretary.

The U.S. Senate on Monday voted to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Department of Agriculture. He takes over a department that was without a top boss for three months after former secretary Tom Vilsack resigned. Vilsack served the entire eight years of the Obama administration (one of the longest-serving agriculture secretaries in recent decades).

Three months after his nomination, Sonny Perdue faces a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate Monday for the post of secretary of agriculture.

If confirmed, Perdue will find a desk at USDA piled high with priorities and will be one of the last members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to be seated.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is holding meetings around the state during the April recess. In a session with farmers, he heard complaints about health insurance premiums and deductibles continuing to climb. Grassley says the recent news that two companies will stop selling individual policies in the state, and the failure to get a new healthcare law signed, also concern him.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Competition and consolidation in the meat industry may drive a wedge between President Donald Trump and one of Iowa's U.S. senators.

Republican Chuck Grassley says he's introducing a bill to prevent meat packing companies from owning livestock, which he hopes will protect family farms by preserving their ability to compete in the open market.  

But the proposal contrasts with the president's efforts to reduce business regulations. Grassley says if the president opposes his bill, that's okay with him.

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