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.


The U.S. Senate judiciary committee wants to examine proposed mergers among agricultural chemical and seed companies.

On a Midwest trip last week, the U.S. Agriculture Secretary offered advice to the next presidential administration.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been on the job since 2009 and in that time his department has expanded programs for local foods and farmers markets, school meals and nutrition, and rural development. He noted that soon the agricultural sector will begin work on the next farm bill, which covers everything from crop safety nets to the food stamp program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it is expanding its support of new farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met in Ames, Iowa with over a dozen young, beginning, and military veteran farmers. He listened to their start-up stories and announced another $18 million in grants to help new farmers get going. Vilsack says the diversity of farmers, crops, and production strategies all make the food system more resilient. He’s also tried to connect government policy with the on-the-ground needs for farmers.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Growing up on a family farm in West Bend, Iowa, Haley Banwart and her brother were like 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. I can drive a tractor, I can bale square hay,” Banwart says. “But it was just expected that my brother would return home.”

She says they never discussed it, she just accepted that she’d find a different path.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

An Iowa Republican is questioning Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s commitment to ethanol. 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says Hillary 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, which mandates production of ethanol and other bio-based fuels. The RFS has been a boon to Corn Belt farmers.

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 and farm" — and she'd find another path.


Floods, tornadoes and other severe weather can cause chaos in a community. As Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency hopes its smartphone app can help people prepare and recover.

The FEMA app lets you upload photos from a disaster, find a shelter and check on conditions for up to five different locations. Brenda Gustafson of the Kansas City FEMA office says the app also has checklists for preparations and details specific to each kind of event.

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.

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.