Amy Mayer

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.

A weathered wooden shed that holds wheelbarrows, hoes and other basic tools is the beacon of the Student Organic Farm, a two-acre swath within the larger horticultural research farm at Iowa State University.

On a warm spring evening, a half-dozen students gather here, put on work gloves and begin pulling up weeds from the perennial beds where chives, strawberries, rhubarb and sage are in various stages of growth.

"I didn't know how passionate I [would] become for physical work," says culinary science major Heidi Engelhardt.

Wikipedia.org

The world’s three largest seed companies are all in talks about possible mergers. That could create a new landscape for farmers buying seeds, fertilizer and possibly even machinery.

Monsanto, Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer are all in merger talks. And already, they together control more than 50 percent of the seed market. Iowa State University economist Chad Hart says the U.S. Justice Department will evaluate the risk of anti-trust violations and threats to competition.

Harvest Public Media

Expansion in the country’s beef cattle herd is bringing cheaper meat prices to the grocery store just in time for the summer grilling season.

Lower prices for feed, falling land prices and increased consumer demand for meat over the past three years spurred the nation’s beef producers to raise more cattle. But Iowa State University economist Lee Schulz says even so, prices dropped a bit quicker than expected.

"What many of us thought would be a much longer, prolonged process to get to this new price level, really occurred in the last three months of 2015," Schulz says.

neetalparekh, flickr Creative Commons

Vermont’s first-in-the-nation labeling law for foods containing genetically modified ingredients takes effect July 1. Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports Congress may be pushing through an impasse to create a national law intended to prevent a system of up to 50 different state laws.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The antibiotics that keep us healthy are becoming less effective. Scientists say giving the drugs to farm animals is part of the problem.

That’s why researchers are looking into new ways to keep livestock healthy and profitable--especially the animals that become our steak and pork chops. As Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, they’re turning to something you can probably find in your fridge.

On a cold windy morning, Kelly Nissen feeds the cows at the Iowa State University Beef Nutrition Farm. He weighs out specific rations and carefully delivers them to numbered feed bunks.

"When you're feeding, you're always double-checking yourself to make sure it's going in the right lot," Nissen says. It's important — because these cows munch on more than just the common mix of hay, corn and distiller's grain. They're also charged with testing out different formulas developed by the researchers in the animal science department at Iowa State.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Hog farmers still battling a disease that has caused over a billion dollars in damages are coming to better understand how the virus arrived in North America.

The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, or PED, outbreak began in spring 2013 and evidence suggests the virus originated in China. Its global spread was a mystery, but some veterinarians saw a possible link to feed. Now, researcher Scott Dee says he’s shown imported ingredients may have given the virus a ride here from China.

liz west, flickr Creative Commons

Hundreds of lawsuits against seed company Syngenta could evolve into a major class action and involve almost every corn farmer in the country.

In 2013, China rejected some American imports because they contained corn grown from a seed with a genetically engineered Syngenta trait. The trait was approved for sale in the United States, but China’s regulators had not yet approved it.

China is a huge market for US corn. Lawyers have filed many cases on behalf of farmers seeking compensation from Syngenta for lost sales.

Abengoa Bioenergy

A major player in the ethanol industry with a plant in Kansas has filed for bankruptcy. Midwest corn suppliers say they’re owed millions of dollars.

Spanish company Abengoa produces grain ethanol here in the Midwest. It also built a cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas to make fuel from grasses and other bio-products.

But that so-called advanced biofuel hasn’t truly hit the market.

Blackburnphoto/Flickr--Creative Commons

2015 was a down year for most farmers in the Corn Belt, according to Agriculture Department numbers. But as Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, even with their lowest income since 2002, most farmers will stick to what they know.

Demand for grain was high this fall, but corn and soybean supplies were abundant. Still, even low prices may not push farmers away from these staple crops. Iowa State University economist Chad Hart says always the priority is profitability. A few farmers may put more land aside for conservation or switch to organic.

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