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.

wikipedia.org

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Tuesday that his first job outside the Cabinet will be heading up a dairy industry trade group.

Tom Vilsack, who stepped down as agriculture secretary last week, will join the U.S. Dairy Export Council as president. The Council is one of several related groups that advocate and lobby on behalf of the dairy industry. But Vilsack says he doesn’t expect to be at the Capitol asking lawmakers to pass certain bills.

Luke Runyon, file photo / Harvest Public Media

A federal court has sided with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and against environmental groups in a case the groups had hoped would hasten water clean-up efforts.

The Gulf Restoration Network and environmental groups from Mississippi River watershed states argued the EPA needs to enforce more specific water quality standards. But, on appeal, a U.S. District Court ruled the Clean Water Act leaves that authority to the states.

Iowa Environmental Council’s Susan Heathcote says that’s going to put more pressure on local efforts.

Emily Bell / flickr Creative Commons

With farmers coming off a third straight year of lower incomes, 2017 will require some more belt-tightening.

Persistently low prices for major commodity crops including corn and soybeans may inch up slightly in the new year. But Iowa State economist Chad Hart says farmer are adjusting their strategies to ride out the slump.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Cropland in the Midwest is losing its value as the downturn in the agriculture economy continues.

Record-high crop prices contributed to record-high land values in 2012 and 2013. But now, that party is over.

Iowa State University economist Wendong Zhang says across the Corn Belt, and into the Great Plains, farmers are now suffering from oversupply, despite strong demand.

"Because we had this really high profits, everyone is trying to increase productions," Zhang says.

wikipedia.org

As he prepares to leave Washington, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is warning the next administration about the impact of global markets on U.S. farmers.

Democrat Tom Vilsack’s 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 our top three trading partners.

deirdren / flickr Creative Commons

Americans may find more meat on their holiday tables this year. As Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, large supplies of pork and beef are pushing down prices.

Typically, it takes a while for changes in commodity or wholesale prices to reach us at the grocery store. But the expansion of the nation’s beef herd and increased pork production are now making both meats more affordable than they have been in recent years.

Wikipedia

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 a myriad of U.S. Department of Agriculture priorities.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who sits on the agriculture committee, says low commodity prices and falling farm incomes could spur Congress to get started on the next law soon.

wikipedia.org

Supporters and opponents of several proposed mergers among agricultural seed and chemical companies made their case to lawmakers in Washington Tuesday.

Executives from Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta argue the proposed new combinations are necessary to continue the research that leads to innovation. But Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, says the new pairings, including a Chinese state-owned company buying Syngenta, could have the opposite effect.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Excess fertilizer and pesticides have flowed from farm fields into our waterways for years. While federal regulations have successfully cut back some water pollution, they have little muscle in combating one of the Midwest’s biggest environmental problems.

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.

German pharmaceutical giant Bayer has reached an agreement to buy St. Louis-based Monsanto, the global powerhouse in genetically engineered seeds. Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports on what that means for Midwest farmers.

The merger is the third pairing of top seed and chemical companies in less than a year. Phil Howard of Michigan State University says slower sales in recent years have pushed the companies to consolidate, and he says bigger firms wield more political power.

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