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

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa's beef producers have agreed to spend an extra 50 cents a head for a state checkoff. Checkoff programs fund marketing and education for a variety of agricultural products. The state conducted a referendum on Nov. 30 to see whether cattle producers wanted to re-establish a state checkoff. About 1,700 of the state's nearly 27,000 beef producers voted in the referendum, with 56 percent approving the proposal. Iowa had a state checkoff from 1970-1985, says Chris Freland, executive director...

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is being recognized for encouraging young people to choose careers that will help farmers combat climate change and feed more people. Since 2011, USDA has partnered with the Des Moines-based World Food Prize to offer fellowships in Washington, D.C. for agriculture students. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa Democratic governor, returned to Des Moines to accept the World Food Prize Medallion on behalf of his department. He spoke directly to...

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

As he prepares to leave Washington, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warns the next administration about the impact of global markets on U. S. farmers. Vilsack is quick to point out he’s not privy to any information from the Republican president-elect, but he’s worried about how Donald Trump will approach immigration and trade. Vilsack says bad decisions could spur retaliation from China and Mexico—two of the top three trading partners for the U.S. "If you destroy markets and you don't have...

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The corn and soybeans so abundant in Iowa could someday replace many of the plastic pots and flats at your local garden shop. Researchers at Iowa State University set about to create pots for plants that were not made from petroleum products and that could biodegrade. They started with a corn-based bioplastic and tried a number of different formulas. Some of those included a polymer made from soybeans. "The plastics that had a soy component were consistently leading to plants with darker...

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Americans may find more meat on their holiday tables this year, at cheaper prices. U.S. livestock production is in full swing. Beef and pork together set a new record recently -- commodity analysis firm Urner Barry reported an all-time high of 1.0618 billion pounds of beef and pork produced in U.S. slaughterhouses the week that ended November 19. Meanwhile, Midwest turkey producers have recovered from a massive 2015 avian flu outbreak. It typically takes a while for changes in commodity or...

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As another harvest season wraps up, Midwest farmers are once again facing low commodity prices amid enormous supplies. And when they recover from the long days bringing in the grain, they will eventually sit down with their books and try to figure out how best to farm again next year. Many will turn to an agronomist for advice. Field agronomists, experts in soils, plants, insects, diseases and more, have long been the first point of contact for farmers searching for help. Today, as...

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A coalition of state environmental groups called the Mississippi River Collaborative is pressuring the federal Environmental Protection Agency to do more to clean up waterways in the Mississippi River Watershed. In a report released today, the group calls upon the EPA to take concrete action to force improvements in water quality. "EPA is under the microscope on this," says Susan Heathcote, water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, which is part of the collaborative. "And I...

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Iowa’s congressional incumbents all won reelection Tuesday, as the delegation remains at three Republicans and one Democrat. Republican 1st District Rep. Rod Blum of Dubuque defeated former Cedar Rapids council member Monica Vernon, capturing 54 percent of the vote across 20 counties in northeast Iowa. Once the race was called in his favor, Blum told a raucous crowd in Dubuque that’s he is going back to Capitol Hill finish what he started when he voted against then-House Speaker John Boehner....

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If Dow and DuPont succeed with their proposal to merge and spinoff three companies, one focused on agribusiness, the new companies will open a fresh chapter in the corporate histories of two titans of American industry. With mergers and acquisitions, the types of increased efficiencies and streamlined processes that can be attractive to shareholders often lead to trimming staff. The companies have already announced they will move the agribusiness headquarters to Delaware, despite the current...

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Iowa's 4th Congressional District covers 39 counties, from the northwest corner through much of north-central part of the state. It's the largest and most conservative district--38 percent of registered voters are Republicans. That hasn't deterred Democrat Kim Weaver from launching a campaign to unseat seven-term incumbent Steve King. In fact, it has attracted the attention of some out-of-state politicians. At an event in Ames, Congressman Eric Swalwell, (D-Calif.) who was born in the...

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Five of the six biggest companies that produce and sell seeds and chemicals to the world's farmers are pursuing deals that could leave a market dominated by just three giant, global companies. They say getting bigger means bringing more sophisticated and innovative solutions to farmers faster, but opponents say consolidation has irreversible downsides. Dow and DuPont want to merge and then spin off three separate companies, one of them dedicated to agriculture. Monsanto has accepted an offer...

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The massive industry that supplies farmers with the tools to raise crops is on the brink of a watershed moment. High-profile deals that would see some of the largest global agri-chemical companies combine are in the works and could have ripple effects from farm fields to dinner tables across the globe. Six companies currently dominate the marketplace for agricultural seeds and farm chemicals, like fertilizer and pesticides: BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta. Of those, only BASF...

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The annual Borlaug Dialogue , a week-long celebration of global food and agriculture in conjunction with the World Food Prize, is underway in Des Moines. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, who grew up in Muscatine, said today when he first went to the World Bank, economists there were reluctant to give cash assistance to help people out of poverty. But he said that has changed. Now, they see that offering both money and services, like education and healthcare, can lift children out of poverty...

File: Courtesy Stephen Carmody/Michigan Radio

The next Congress may take up the farm bill a year ahead of schedule. The current five-year farm bill became law in 2014 . Congressional debate was contentious, including whether to keep nutrition assistance programs in the massive legislation that also funds the farm safety net , rural development and myriad U.S. Department of Agriculture priorities. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who serves on the agriculture committee, says low commodity prices and falling farm incomes could spur Congress...

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A lawsuit farmers have filed against seed giant Syngenta will proceed as a class action, potentially involving hundreds of thousands of corn growers nationwide. U.S. District Court Judge John Lungstrum approved the motion to certify the Syngenta AG MIR 162 Corn Litigation as a class action Monday in Kansas City, Kansas. "It allows us to streamline the case and focus on the issues that are important to all the farmers in the country," says St. Louis, Missouri, attorney Don Downing, one of the...

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Ames is among the central Iowa communities recovering from heavy rains late Thursday night. Assistant city manager Brian Phillips says parts of Ames received five inches of rain, much of it falling in about an hour. And he says at least two manhole covers disappeared in the deluge. "If there's a storm sewer that has a very large slug of water going through it, that can compress the air underneath the manhole cover," Phillips says, "and that compression pushes upward [and] can pop the manhole...

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Supporters and opponents of several proposed mergers among agricultural seed and chemical companies are making their case to lawmakers in Washington. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday to, as committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grasley (R-Iowa) put it, get everything out on the table. Grassley says public testimony can raise concerns the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission may need to consider as they evaluate the proposed new pairings. DuPont, whose Pioneer...

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On a gray day, just as the rain begins to fall, Roger Zylstra stops his red GMC Sierra pick-up truck on the side of the road and hops down into a ditch in Jasper County, Iowa. It takes two such stops before he unearths amid the tall weeds and grasses what he’s looking for. "Here is one of the tiles," he says, pointing to a pipe about six or eight inches in diameter. Water trickles from it into a culvert that runs under the road after flowing through a network of underground drainage lines...

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The Democratic candidate for vice president is reaching out to students and other voters in Iowa. Iowa State University student Eric Spies introduced Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who said he was making his first stop in Iowa since Hillary Clinton chose him as her running mate. Kaine's wife, Anne Holton, also spoke to the crowd of a couple hundred people, many of them students, at the Memorial Union on the Iowa State campus in Ames. Kaine outlined his party's plan for making a college education...

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St. Louis-based Monsanto, a world agribusiness leader, has agreed to be acquired by the German company Bayer. Bayer will pay $57 billion dollars, or $128 per share, in a deal that has been in the works since last spring. Two other mergers are underway in the industry, with Dow set to combine with DuPont (already the owner of Iowa-based DuPont Pioneer) and ChemChina planning to buy the Swiss company Syngenta. For farmers confronting another season of massive production but low commodity prices...

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As driverless cars begin to roam the streets, autonomous farm machinery is not far behind. The same fundamental technology that allows a vehicle to maneuver through city traffic may someday let a farmer send his tractor off to work on its own. New Holland, the Pennsylvania-based equipment maker, demonstrated one of its large tractors outfitted to run autonomously during the recent Farm Progress Show in Boone. With the self-driving technology, the tractor can position itself on a field and,...

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Iowa State Extension's Women in Agriculture Program is recognizing several Iowans as Women Impacting the Land. The awards celebrate farm work ranging from traditional row crops to livestock to perennial trees and nuts. Madeline Schultz, the director of the Women in Agriculture program, says the increased awareness of women's contributions to farming inspired the awards. "We have selected eight women across Iowa who we really feel are very innovative in their conservation methods," Schultz...

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A group of agricultural companies, food manufacturers, retailers and environmental groups plant to raise money to further conservation practices in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative announced its launch at the Farm Progress Show in Boone Wednesday. Founding partners include Cargill, the Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart and the World Wildlife Fund. Jill Kolling, senior director of...

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The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee plans to examine proposed mergers among agricultural chemical and seed companies in a September hearing. With Chinese chemical giant ChemChina in talks to buy Syngenta, merger discussions ongoing between Dow and DuPont , a n d Bayer and Monsanto apparently inching toward a deal, regulators and lawmakers are worrying about decreased competition and higher prices for farmers. Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow are among the biggest global players in...

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On a hot, July day in Boone County, farmer Brett Heineman shuttled a semi from one of his family's fields to the local co-op. He and his uncle were harvesting the first crop of oats on this farm in decades. Before, corn and soybeans almost completely covered the landscape -- today, they account for 95 percent of crop acres in Iowa -- most Corn Belt farmers also grew oats or alfalfa. Now, the Heinemans are among the farmers taking a closer look at re-integrating the small grain into their...

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On a trip to the Midwest last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack offered some advice to the next presidential administration. As the candidates tour the country and remain largely silent on agriculture and food issues, the Agriculture Department’s purview remains important. "The next agriculture secretary needs to have a very broad understanding of what this department does, who it impacts – and that it has an impact and effect on every single American," Vilsack says, "not just...

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it is expanding its support of new farmers and ranchers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with more than a dozen young, beginning and military veteran farmers at Iowa State University in Ames. He listened to their start-up stories and announced another $18 million in grants to help new farmers get going. Vilsack says he has tried to connect government policy with on-the-ground needs for farmers. “I’ve encouraged those in the regulatory space to...

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Iowa's senior US senator says the proposed mergers of major agricultural seed and chemical companies should get coordinated review from multiple federal agencies. Chuck Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and often presses government agencies to make sure proposed mergers will not stymie competition. Right now, he says the Department of Justice is looking at the proposed Dow-DuPont merger. The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing ChemChina's bid to take over Syngenta. "If the two...

Growing up on their family farm in West Bend, Iowa, Haley Banwart and her brother Jack were like any other farm kids. They did chores, participated in 4-H and even raised cattle together. "My brother and I have had the same amount of responsibilities," says Banwart, 22. "I can drive a tractor, I can bale square hay. But it was just expected that my brother would return home." Her family never really discussed it. "It was always kind of the unwritten rule," she says. "My brother would go back...

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U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is questioning Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's commitment to ethanol. Grassley says Clinton has been exploring an energy policy in California that focuses on carbon reduction and relies upon a market strategy. That contrasts with the existing Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates production of ethanol and other bio-based fuels. The RFS has been a boon to Corn Belt farmers. Grassley says Clinton could be considering replacing the...

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