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. Since the spring of 2008, Amy has served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio.

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.

Pages

Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:40 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Everything Agriculture on Display at Farm Progress Show

Yellow hay rakes drew attention to the New Holland exhibit at the Farm Progress Show in Boone Tuesday.
Amy Mayer/IPR

A burst of colorful farm machinery is surrounded by demonstration fields at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone this week. The Farm Progress Show is attracting thousands of farmers, agronomists and agribusiness representatives. It’s an annual trade event that alternates between the Iowa site and Decatur, Illinois.  

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The Salt
4:23 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

High Prices Aren't Scaring Consumers Away From The Meat Counter

Meat is displayed in a case at a grocery store in Miami in July. Pork and beef prices are up more than 11 percent since last summer.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 7:41 pm

You may have noticed when grilling steaks or hot dogs this summer that they cost more than they did last year. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pork and beef prices are up more than 11 percent since last summer.

Supply and demand determine price, and the pork supply comes from places like Riley Lewis' hog farm near Forest City, Iowa.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Art Tangoes Over Time with Ag

Beekeeper Julia McGuire fits a veil on photographer Marji Guyler-Alaniz before they approach a hive.
Amy Mayer/IPR

  In a living room converted to a theater for the evening, Ethan Peterson and Madeleine Russell portray the characters from Mary Swander’s play, “VANG.” In it, the actors share the emotional stories of four immigrant couples who farm in Iowa. Swander used transcriptions of conversations with Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Dutch farmers to create the play.

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Education
2:11 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

ISU's Annual Veishea Celebration Is No More

At a press conference in the Memorial Union, Iowa State president Steven Leath announced that Veishea is over for good.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Iowa State University will no longer have a campus-wide, student-run celebration each spring. ISU President Steven Leath spent months meeting with a task force considering the future of Veishea.

"I’m announcing today that Veishea is ended," he said at a press conference Thursday, "and the name Veishea is retired."

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Mixed Reception for Poultry Inspection Rules

ISU animal science professor Dong Ahn says consumers could benefit from mandatory microbial testing in the new poultry inspection rule, intended to reduce foodborne illnesses.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Change is coming to the poultry industry, but not everyone is happy about it.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:26 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Forensics for the Farm Keep Food Safe

Hans Coetzee, a professor at the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine, says forensic testing can offer farmers and veterinarians reassurance that nothing unwanted is in milk, meat or feed.
Amy Mayer/IPR

TV shows like “CSI” have made forensics a hot topic, spawning books and even science programs for kids. The same technology used at crime scenes to link a stray hair to a suspect can also find antibiotics or other medications in milk and meat. And the use of sophisticated testing is becoming increasingly available for livestock producers, who stand to lose lots of money if their products are tainted.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu July 24, 2014

My Farm Roots: Carrying On A Farm Family Legacy

For four generations, Riley Lewis’ family has farmed a plot of land near Forest City, Iowa. Lewis currently raises corn, soybeans and hogs with his son, the fifth generation.
Amy Mayer/IPR

In his home in Forest City, Iowa, Riley Lewis has the original warranty deed for his farm, signed by President James Buchanan and issued to one Elias Gilbert, a soldier who served in the War of 1812.

“He moved here, northeast of Forest City, and lived there for one year,” Lewis said, which was the obligation veterans had if they homesteaded. “And then he sold it to Robert Clark, who was the founder of Forest City.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:25 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Acres of GMO Corn Nearly Double in a Decade

The USDA reports that 93 percent of the corn planted in the United States contains a genetically modified trait.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that over 90 percent of U.S. field corn is genetically modified, meaning the seeds have been embedded with a gene—usually from a bacteria—that  protects the corn from pests or herbicides.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
2:00 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

EPA Promotes Water Rule to Farmers

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks to reporters at Heffernan Farm in Missouri this week.
Kris Hustead/Harvest Public Media

   

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is touring farm country, trying to assure farmers that the agency isn’t asking for more authority over farmers and ranchers’ lands.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Palmer Amaranth Begins March Through Iowa

In Muscatine County, farmer Roger Hargrafen is doing all he can to eradicate the Palmer amaranth that emerged on his farm last year.
Amy Mayer/IPR

A fast spreading, crop destroying weed may be coming to the farms near you.

Palmer amaranth, which has plagued southern farms for decades, has been marching across the Midwest. It can decimate a crop. It can withstand many common herbicides. And it can cost farmers millions.

Roger Hargrafen, a farmer in Muscatine County, Iowa, is on the front lines in the battle against Palmer amaranth. His is one of four Iowa farms confirmed as having it.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Hunger Help from the Heartland

Kurt Rosentrater keeps bins of various types of feed in his lab at Iowa State. Characteristics such as size and sponginess tell him what type of diet the feed is for, while the smell hints at the ingredients.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Global hunger has no easy answer.

But as part of a partnership with the federal government called Feed the Future, researchers at land-grant universities are trying new approaches to the decades-old dilemma.

“The world’s poorest people, and hungriest people, generally, the majority of them are small farmers living in rural areas,” said Tjada D’oyen McKenna, deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future. “And agriculture is the most effective means of bringing them out of poverty and under-nutrition.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
4:16 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Congress OKs River System Improvement Bill

Farmers are hopeful improvements are coming to the Midwest river system, which is crucial for shipping grain, in the form of the Waterways Resource Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).

After years of work on the bill, Congress recently smashed together separate bills passed by each chamber and sent the White House a new $12.3 billion water infrastructure bill with bipartisan support. President Obama has yet to state whether he plans to sign the bill.

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2014 Voter Guide
10:49 am
Thu May 22, 2014

Candidate Profile: Joe Grandanette

Third Congressional District Republican candidate Joe Grandanette
Credit Facebook

Read this candidate profile of 3rd District Candidate Joe Grandanette. He was interviewed as part of IPR's 2014 Primary Voter Guide series.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:05 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Treated Seeds May Contribute to Honeybee Losses

Cherokee, Iowa farmer Nathan Anderson wears beekeeping gear to protect himself when he opens or closes the pollen traps on the hives on his farm. He’s allowed researchers to place three pairs of hives on his fields.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Nathan Anderson stops his red pick-up truck alongside a cornfield on his farm near Cherokee, Iowa. The young farmer pulls on a heavy brown hoodie, thick long, sturdy yellow gloves and a beekeeper’s hat with a screened veil. He approaches a pair of hives sitting on the edge of a field recently planted with corn.

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Environment
5:00 am
Wed May 7, 2014

River Curriculum Helps Decorah Earn Statewide Honor

A trout hatchery and recreation trails make the Upper Iowa River appealing to residents and visitors.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Each year, the statewide nonprofit organization Iowa Rivers Revival honors a community for its commitment to the river that runs through it. This year the group named Decorah as its River Town of the Year. 

On a cool spring day, fish splash at the trout hatchery in Decorah as a few hearty men in waders angle nearby. Alongside the Upper Iowa River is a multi-use, four season trail. The recreation options are among the reasons Iowa Rivers Revival selected Decorah and the Oneota Valley for this year's award. 

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Robust System Can Grow Local Market

In the kitchen at Decorah High School, Chad Elliott ladels out tomato soup. The school system sources many ingredients locally.
Amy Mayer/IPR

The smell of baking dinner rolls fills the kitchen at Decorah High School in northeast Iowa. As two kitchen workers mix a fresh broccoli salad, another, Chad Elliott, ladles tomato soup from a large metal pot on the stove into white plastic buckets for delivery to the town’s elementary schools.

Elliott says most of the food served in the district is made from scratch and many ingredients come from local farms and dairies.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed April 23, 2014

Public, Private Partners Key to Local Food Success

Ashley Turk is a member of Food Corps, a service program that supports local food systems. In northeast Iowa, Turk and other organizers maintain a robust network that connects growers with clients.
Credit Amy Mayer/IPR

As Food Corps service member Ashley Turk navigates her way through a brand-new greenhouse in the courtyard at Waukon High School in the northeast corner of Iowa, she points to a robust supply of red and green lettuce leaves growing neatly in rows.

“It’s huge,” she says. “We cut it off and it just keeps growing.”

The greenhouse lettuce is among the offerings in the school’s salad bar. And students will soon be growing carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables, Turks says.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:13 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

USDA makes PED a reportable disease

The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus has killed millions of piglets.
Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that hog farmers are now required to report outbreaks of certain viral diseases that have spread across the country during the past year.

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News
4:05 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

VEISHEA Celebration at Iowa State Canceled

Iowa State University President Steven Leath has canceled the rest of the VEISHEA celebration for this year.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Raucous behavior in the Campustown neighborhood just off the Iowa State University campus in Ames early Wednesday left one student hospitalized. And it led to the cancelation of an annual spring tradition.

Ames police estimate about 1000 people congregated in the streets, where sign posts were toppled and cars were flipped. ISU President Steven Leath expressed disappointment and sadness at an afternoon press conference, which many students also attended. Leath said it’s early in the week of the annual VEISHEA celebration and he had to take decisive action to protect safety.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:27 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Ethanol Advocates Fight for Renewable Fuel Standard

DuPont is sourcing corn stover from a wide radius around its Nevada cellulosic ethanol plant, expected to come on-line this year.
Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Ethanol advocates made the case for preserving the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on Tuesday in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Without the RFS, advocates say, the ethanol industry will be quashed – and corn farmers and rural communities will pay the price. But many agricultural economists argue that lowering the ethanol mandate won’t be a huge blow to the rural economy.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Rootworms May Fall Victim to Greater Crop Rotation

These adult beetles in a lab at ISU helped researchers confirm the western corn rootworm can adapt to Bt corn.
Amy Mayer/IPR

After a long battle with corn rootworm, Midwest farmers thought they’d found relief in genetically modified seeds with engineered-in toxins to beat back the best. But recent research confirms what farmers have been noticing for several years: the western corn rootworm has been evolving to outwit the technology.

When Aaron Gassmann, a bug researcher at Iowa State University, started answering calls to come look at some cornfields, he went out and quickly had a hunch. Now, his research proves his fear.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
4:00 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

USDA predicts more soybean acres this year

The USDA predicts farmers may plant more soybean acres this year, thanks in part to lower corn prices.
Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The U. S. Department of Agriculture is predicting fewer acres will be planted in corn this year, compared to last year, while soybean acreage will be up.

In its Prospective Plantings report, the federal agency uses survey data collected from farmers to estimate how much of each grain will be planted. While the corn estimate of 91.7 million acres would mark the lowest acreage since 2010, it would still rank as the fifth largest planting of that grain in the United States since 1944.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Pig Virus Now Impacting Pork Prices

Illinois hog farmer Phil Borgic lost eight percent of his annual yield to the procine epidemic diarrhea virus.
Peter Gray/Harvest Public Meeting

A virus that has devastated piglets for nearly a year is now responsible for lower pork supplies and higher prices.

Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill. knows first hand what happens when porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus infects a hog barn. He walked through one in late January pointing out the differences among litters.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
6:54 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Online Commodity Challenge helps farmers learn market tools

Robbie Maass shows his mother, Leah, the Commodity Challenge game that is helping him understand market tools. He hopes to help the family farm in Hamilton County by taking on some marketing responsibilities.
Amy Mayer/IPR

On a frigid winter day , Chad Hart tries to warm his economics students at Iowa State University to the idea of managing some of the risk of farming using the commodity markets. Because as he told them on the first day of class, farmers don’t make money planting or harvesting crops; they make money selling them. And Hart knows that marketing—managing those sales for the best profit—can be intimidating.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:12 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

President Signs New Farm Bill

President Obama signs the Agriculture Act of 2014 as members of Congress and the Cabinet look on.
Credit Courtesy Stephen Carmody/Michigan Radio

  President Barack Obama signed the new farm bill into law Friday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, ending years of negotiations and wrangling.

With farm equipment, hay bales and crates of apples setting the stage, the president told the crowd that this farm bill –officially called the Agriculture Act of 2014 – will save taxpayer dollars while also offering support to farmers and ranchers. And he says that helps the whole country.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri February 7, 2014

The Uneasy Marriage of Food Stamps and Farm Policy

For decades, government agriculture policy has tied farm programs to federal food aid. Grocery displays like this one were common in the wake of the creation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation in the 1930s.
Courtesy National Archives

When President Obama signs the long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 – the new farm bill – into law Friday, both farmers and food stamps advocates will be sighing in relief. This farm bill process was fraught with ups and downs and the loose coalition tying nutrition and farm programs seemed barely able to survive.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Corn Dust Another Threat to Honeybees

In her lab at Iowa State, Mary Harris keeps specimens of bees for her research on how they are impacted by environmental factors including corn dust.

The way certain corn seeds get planted is having an unintended negative affect on honeybees in the Corn Belt. 

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:48 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Farm Bill Compromise Passes House

ISU agricutltue economist Chad Hart says the cost of farm programs will fluctuate more under the 2014 farm bill than the last one.
Amy Mayer/IPR

It’s getting so close now… Wednesday morning the U.S. House passed the Agriculture Act of 2014, the new farm bill. The Senate is expected to take it up soon.

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The Salt
4:05 am
Sun January 26, 2014

Pig Virus Continues To Spread, Raising Fears Of Pricier Bacon

Piglets at Hilldale Farm in State Center, Iowa in March 2013, just before porcine epidemic diarrhea began spreading through hog farms in the U.S.
Amy Mayer Harvest Public Media

Pork producers across the country are grappling with a virus that's going after piglets. Livestock economists estimate the porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PED, virus has already killed about 1 million baby pigs in the U.S. since it was first found in Iowa last spring.

Canada reported its first case Thursday, and the disease shows no sign of abating. That has veterinarians worried.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Niche Crops Leap into Bigger Markets

Andrew Pittz and his family operate a commercial aronia berry farm in Missouri Valley, which supplies berries and value-added products to retailers nationwide.
Amy Mayer/IPR

In the Midwest, crop agriculture often gets divided between the major commodities of corn, soybeans and wheat and everything else. Switching to an un-tested crop is risky for farmers, but sometimes agronomics and market forces meet in a sweet spot and they can reap the benefits of innovation.

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