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.

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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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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus continues relentless spread

Bottles of PED vaccine are ready for shipping at Harrisvaccines in Ames.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Pork producers across the country are continuing to grapple with a virus that’s killing their piglets. Experts estimate Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus has already killed about 1 million baby pigs and the disease shows no sign of abating.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:47 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Corn stover market set to grow in 2014

Baled corn stover, shown here at the construction site of DuPont Pioneer's cellulosic ethanol plant near Nevada, may become an important cash crop in 2014 as this plant and another, from POET-DSM in Emmetsburg, come on-line.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Something farmers often call “trash” could be a new cash crop in 2014. Two cellulosic ethanol plants are expected to begin operations in the coming year, one near Nevada and the other in Emmetsburg. They will create ethanol from the leaves, stalks and cobs of the corn plant, rather than the grain. And that means farmers will be able to sell the residue left on the field after harvest to the energy producers. Iowa State University agronomy professor Rick Cruse says cellulosic production could eventually expand to accept other raw materials.

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Year in Review
2:24 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Top IPR Reporter Picks of 2013

2013 has been a busy year for Iowa Public Radio's news team. Today on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with reporters and correspondents about some of the most meaningful and challenging stories they covered. It's a "reporter's notebook" edition of the show.

Here is a list of the full features heard on today's show:

January 10 - Undocumented Immigrants at University

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
12:58 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Poultry inspection rules in focus on Capitol Hill

USDA Agricultural Commodity Compliance Specialist Melissa Thompson and Federal-State Supervisor Gary Tharp inspect a package of poultry at a Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Springdale, Ark., in 2010.
USDAGov/Flickr

A bipartisan group of senators is pressuring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize changes to the way poultry is inspected.

The new system is controversial. Advocates say it would save taxpayer money by shifting certain inspection duties from federal employees to company workers and allowing for faster processing. Some inspectors and consumer groups, though, oppose the changes and say it could compromise food safety.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Another farm bill deadline passes without a deal

Iowa State University political scientist David Peterson says the farm bill is a victim of polarization and gridlock in Washington.

If it seems like Congress just can’t get the farm bill done, well… that’s because it can’t. All year long, Washington lawmakers have been saying they want to pass a full five-year farm bill. But even though leaders of the House-Senate conference committee say they are close, they have acknowledged it just won’t get done this year. They’re pushing it off until January.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:59 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Scientists seek more microbial might on the farm

Mark Howieson says this greenhouse at BASF in Ames, Iowa is one step in the development pipeline for biologically-based products to enhance farming.
Amy Mayer/IPR

In a lab on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Chiliang Chen loads tiny vials containing soil samples into a machine called a Powerlyzer. It will smash soil samples to homogenize the tissue and tease out the DNA of the microorganisms within. Chen works with Gwyn Beattie, the Robert Earle Buchanan Distinguished Professor of Bacteriology at Iowa State. Beattie and about two dozen other scientists recently published a report called How Microbes Can Help Feed the World.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
12:57 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Schools buying local produce, but room to expand

The USDA recently surveyed school districts nationwide to measure how much of their food dollars go toward buying local or regional products.
USDA

Iowa’s school districts spent six percent of their food budgets buying from local farms in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Census. That means efforts to fill cafeteria trays with local foods have plenty of room to grow.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Science not likely to resolve dicey food issues

Nick Livermore works a batch of non-GMO soybeans on Aaron Lehman's farm in Polk County. In many countries GMO seeds are banned, though they are grown widely in the United States.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Hot-button food issues of the day, such as the use of genetically modified organisms or the treatment of livestock, tend to pit large industries against smaller activist groups. Often, both sides will claim the science supports what they are saying. That can leave consumers in a bit of a bind.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:51 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Farm bill expires, leaves farmers in limbo--again

Ames farmer Jeff Longnecker says the farm bill should provide a safety net.
Amy Mayer/IPR

The farm bill expired at midnight on Monday, leaving farmers and ranchers across the country guessing at what federal farm policy will look like when they next put their crops in the ground.

Of course, they’re used to uncertainty, as this is the second straight year Congress has let the farm bill expire. Last year, farmers were set adrift for three months before lawmakers passed a nine-month extension of older policy in January.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
6:23 am
Tue September 17, 2013

ISU Researchers Develop New Test for Deadly Pig Virus

PEDV is most deadly to young piglets.
Credit Sarah McCammon

The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus has the potential to kill entire litters of piglets. It has been confirmed in 17 states including Iowa since its first appearance last spring. Now, hog producers and veterinarians have a new tool to help fight it, thanks to a more sensitive test developed at Iowa State University.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Foaming manure pits pose fire threat, vex researchers

Hogs like these live in barns with slatted floors. Manure and water accumulate in a deep pit below the barn, where foam sometimes forms.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Howard Hill pulls his red Chevy pick-up truck up to a barn near Union, Iowa, that houses 1,000 of his hogs. In the truck’s bed is a 55-pound bag of Rumensin 90, a common antibacterial ingredient in cattle feed that helps reduce bloating. Pigs don’t eat it. Hill brought it here to dump into the manure pit under the hogs.

Hill is among the many Midwestern pork producers who use deep pits under their barns to accumulate manure throughout the year. In the fall, after fields are harvested, the nutrient-rich slurry gets pumped out of the pits and injected into the cropland.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
1:11 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Syria latest stumbling block on farm bill path

Farmers will soon begin harvesting crops, and making decisions about next year, without a farm bill.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Farmers may now have to wait until Congress makes its decisions about Syria before the farm bill gets any more attention.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said a farm bill conference committee could meet without disrupting the debate on Syria, but he doesn’t expect that to happen.

“Syria’s going to put the farm bill on the back burner,” Grassley said. “I don’t think that’s justified, but that’s what we’ve been told. And how far—on how many back burners back—I don’t know.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Congress still playing the farm bill game

In the Facebook game Farmville 2, players create their own farms. Like real farmers, players plan their moves based on policy.
courtesy of Zynga

The farm bill is, once again, entering a critical stretch. As was the case last year, the current law expires at the end of September. There’s no election to dissuade elected officials from tackling the major piece of agriculture and nutrition policy—but Congress does have a pretty full plate, with the crisis in Syria, immigration reform and a measure to continue funding federal government programs all set to come to a head.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:05 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Pork checkoff funds research, can't please all producers

Berkshire piglets race around their nursery on Randy Hilleman's farm in State Center. This hog variety is the subject of a Pork Checkoff-funded study at Iowa State.
Amy Mayer/IPR

A new disease turned up in the $20 billion United States hog industry in May, and the National Pork Board’s response illustrates the role it plays in swine research. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) previously had been found mainly in Asia. It threatened to kill whole litters of piglets.

The Des Moines-based Pork Board sprang into action last spring, making $450,000 immediately available for research on the disease. The Pork Board gets its money from the mandatory pork check-off program, which raised $83 million last year.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu August 22, 2013

My Farm Roots: Winning respect

Danelle Myer launched her vegetable and herb operatioun, One Farm, in the shadow of her parents' row crops.
Amy Mayer/IPR

This is the eleventh installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Sun August 18, 2013

Greetings from Midwest state fairs

The Little Hands on the Farm exhibit is a big draw for kids at the Iowa State Fair.
Amy Mayer/IPR

The Iowa, Missouri and Illinios state fairs all wrap up this weekend. Couldn't visit them all? Get a glimpse here.

Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:05 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Turmoil in farm transitions

Farm succession plans can strain family relationships. Devan Green rents his family’s farmland and has to answer to family shareholders.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Driving out of the western Iowa town of Panora, the winding roads offer broad vistas of rolling hills. Many of the mailboxes along Redwood Road show the name Arganbright. Jim Arganbright grew up in this area, one of 10 children. He and his wife, Beverly, have eight kids.

Though Jim Arganbright farmed here his whole life, three years ago at the age of 80 he started renting his cropland to his son Tom, the only one of his children who farms full-time. Now, all Jim Arganbright has to worry about is the livestock — and he doesn’t have too much of that.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:28 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Series from Harvest Public Media Highlights Role of Age in Farming

The Hawthorn farm has been in the family for four generations since it was founded in the late 1870s by Bob Hawthorn’s great-grandfather who went by the name “Trapper.”
Credit Ray Meints / Nebraska Educational Telecommunications

Next week IPR is launching a 5-part series during Morning Edition from Harvest Public Media on the role of age in farming. It's called "Changing Hands, Changing Lands." It includes a television documentary on Iowa Public Television that airs on August 16th.

IPR's Clay Masters spoke with IPR's Harvest Public Media reporter, Amy Mayer, about the series and some of the research and reporting that went into the project. 

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