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. 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.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Michael McEnany always knew he wanted to be a farmer. Both of his grandfathers were, and he “always loved tagging along with my Grandpa Ed.”

Both of his parents chose ag-related careers, but neither of them went back to the farms they’d grown up on. Still, McEnany’s done nothing but farm for more than a decade. Starting part-time in college, he worked his way up to a full-time, year-round job on Steve Henry’s corn and soybean operation in Nevada, Iowa.

DAIRY: AMY MAYER; WHEAT: VALDEMAR FISHMEN / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA; CREATIVE COMMONS

Farmers and agriculture groups are digging through the details of the new North American trade deal, called the United States Canada Mexico Agreement, and some are raising concerns that clash with the celebratory mood of the three countries’ leaders.

contributed image / TRACES

A century ago, a deadly flu virus swept across the state and around the world. Millions of people died, including more than 6,000 in Iowa.

Over the next month, social historian Michael Luick-Thrams will visit dozens of libraries, schools and museums in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana with a presentation he calls The Killer. He said it’s an effort to help people understand the scope of the disaster because it is a piece of history that is not well known.

Amy Mayer/IPR

At the Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson, Connie Wehmeyer says she likes the slots tournaments, the free Tuesday donuts and the fact that Wild Rose puts money into the community.

“It’s good for the county,” she said. She should know. Wehmeyer only travels eight miles from her home in Grand Junction to enjoy the gaming. And last year alone, Grow Greene County, the “qualified sponsoring organization,” or non-profit partner, that receives 5 percent of Wild Rose’s revenue, awarded nearly $1.5 million in grants to municipalities, school districts, non-profits and other groups.

Amy Mayer / IPR

A civil engineering student from Spain and Big 12 women’s golf champion could fill a room with her smile. That’s how one professor remembered Celia Barquín Arozamena at a vigil on the Iowa State University campus Wednesday.

“I think about how hard she worked in her classes,” said Jim Alleman, an ISU professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering. Even in his difficult classes that didn’t often generate happy expressions among students, Alleman said he would look out at their faces and see Barquín Arozamena smiling.  

Amy Mayer / IPR

An increasing number of farmers is using cover crops to keep water, soil and nutrients from running off fields. But while many studies have shown the agronomic and environmental benefits of the plants that come up after cash crops such as corn or soybeans get harvested, it’s been harder to determine whether a farm business will recover the initial planting cost.

USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

Companies and farmers weathering the Trump administration’s trade policy, which has brought painful tariffs to many industries, could be running out of patience. That’s according to former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who served as USDA secretary for both of President Obama’s terms. 

Vilsack says that farmers and companies were willing to be patient as the Trump administration took a hard stand with China, but after feeling the impact of tariffs, that patience is now running out.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Independent farmers who question the consolidation of farming are finding support from an unexpected ally.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker has introduced a bill calling for an 18-month moratorium on mergers and acquisitions in the food and agribusiness sector.

Amy Mayer / IPR

John Peterson farms corn and soybeans in Jackson, Minnesota, and came to the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, in late August to see what’s new and to learn about the most current technologies.

“It’s all about return on investment,” Peterson said. “Whatever it is that I am focused on, it needs to bring value back to the farm. Otherwise it’s a toy and I really don’t have any use for it.”

Amy Mayer/IPR

A major farm trade show is underway in Iowa, but the first day came to a soggy halt Tuesday.

The Farm Progress Show is billed as the largest outdoor farm show in the country. It’s held at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone County in even-numbered years, alternating with a site in Decatur, Illinois. It kicked off with a strong morning crowd.

John Peterson, a corn and soybean farmer from Jackson, Minnesota, came to check out the latest equipment.

Amy / IPR file photo

Veterinarians and officials are hoping to keep a deadly foreign virus from infecting the American hog industry. African swine fever has been making its way off its namesake continent and into Europe, including Russia. Now, it’s reached China, leading to the culling of about 8,000 hogs.

In response, Japan closed its market to all pork imports from China.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

The next hurdle for the 2018 farm bill is a conference committee, where the House and Senate work out a compromise between their two very different bills.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says he doesn’t expect to serve as one of the nine senators on the committee because he doesn’t have the seniority, but he’s hoping his limit on federal payments will survive.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

When bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, people can end up with infections that don’t respond to available medicines. Now Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and other partners are creating the Institute for Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education. The goal is to bring together human, animal and environmental studies of antibiotic use and resistance.

Amy Mayer / IPR

When communities watch young people grow up, go off and never return, remaining residents and politicians often bemoan there’s been a “brain drain” — especially when such population loss means schools and businesses close.

But plenty of residents are full of love and pride for those communities, and some are working to identify their towns’ best attributes so they can attract new residents and achieve “brain gain.” This effort is happening across New England and in the Mountain West, and is also evident in two Iowa towns.

Bellevue

GotCredit / Flickr

Iowans concerned about their job security can buy some peace of mind with a new type of insurance. Iowa is the second state to offer layoff insurance to workers, after Wisconsin.

The plans, which pay out a lump-sum if a person is laid off or becomes unable to work, are expanding now to additional states.

Mark Greene, director of SafetyNet, the company that created this type of insurance, says too many people don’t have enough savings to deal with a sudden disruption in their income.

Amy Mayer / IPR

After months of verbally sparring with trade partners, the United States is poised to implement wide-reaching tariffs Friday on imported goods, and one in particular has the agriculture economy on edge: soybeans.

OTA Photos / Flickr

Single mothers living in poverty can improve their health when they take charge of their financial lives, according to preliminary findings that researchers now hope to demonstrate in a much larger study.

Amy Mayer / IPR

In an annual survey, Iowa State University economists found the age of farmland owners continues to climb, and with that the number of acres owned debt-free also has increased.

About a third of the land is owned by people who are at least 75 years old and 82 percent of land is owned debt-free.  Typically, the older the landowner, the lower the debt load.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Corn growers, ethanol producers, and oil companies are anticipating an announcement from the Trump administration on possible changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which one Iowa senator says could undercut the president’s stated commitment to the law.

Ahead of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, candidate Donald Trump pledged his support for the RFS, a promise Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expects the President to keep.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Bruce Carney raises cattle, poultry and a few sheep on his 300-acre farm in Maxwell. He no longer grows any grain, but is preparing for new crops of a different kind.

Orange flags dot what was previously a cattle lot, with a ridge (or swale) built around it to manage water flow. The fruit trees Carney will be planting at each of the flags later this year will also help.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture first piloted a program to offer free summer meals to children. The program became a permanent fixture in 1975, and last year, schools, libraries, recreation centers and other groups in Iowa served more than 1.3 million meals and snacks to children under 18 through the Summer Food Service Program.

Amy Mayer/IPR file

Most of the attention surrounding the June 5 primary election in Iowa has been on Democratic races for governor and three congressional seats. There is also a contested Republican primary for Secretary of Agriculture. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters spoke with IPR Agriculture Reporter Amy Mayer about the race and the job itself. Here’s what to know.

A few highlights:

Some conservative House Republicans made it clear Friday in voting down the 2018 farm bill: They’re not interested in a farm bill without working on immigration first.

Thirty Republicans and every Democrat voted against the farm bill, which failed 198-213 in the full House.

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

 At The Law Shop in Van Meter, attorney Amy Skogerson untied a piece of blue yarn from around a bunch of craft sticks.

Each stick had a word or short phrase stamped on it, and she read from them as she placed them on her desk: “negotiate, court representation, research law, draft documents.”

John Pemble / IPR file photo

The prospect of selling gasoline with more ethanol throughout the year remains alive, but likely won’t be approved in time for the upcoming summer driving season.

Most gasoline containing ethanol has no more than 10 percent. A blend with up to 15 percent, called E-15, is available in some places, but in certain markets sales are prohibited from June first through September 15.

In an ongoing push-pull between oil refiners and ethanol producers, President Donald Trump has indicated nationwide, year-round sales of E-15 could be in the works.

Amy Mayer / IPR

The first version of the 2018 farm bill has only minor changes to one of the programs most farmers hold dear and what’s widely seen as their primary safety net: crop insurance.

The program covers all sorts of crops, “from corn to clams,” Iowa State University agriculture economist Chad Hart said. But it’s not like the types of insurance most people are familiar with.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Animal feed mixed from ingredients sourced around the world could be carrying more than the vitamins and nutrients livestock need. Seven different viruses that could cause widespread illness and big economic losses for meat producers in the United States can survive in certain imported feed products.

study published in March in the journal PLOS One looked at 11 viruses that are not yet in the U.S. but infect herds in other places, such as African swine fever and foot and mouth disease.

courtesy / U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall's Office

Held up over disagreements over federal food stamps, the first draft of the 2018 farm bill arrived Thursday, bearing 35 changes to that program, including starting a national database of participants.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30; in the past, Congress has had to extend their work beyond deadlines. The bill released Thursday came from the House Agriculture Committee, which is headed by Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

As China and the United States continue to lob threats over new import tariffs, farmers in the Midwest are already adjusting to the first shots in what could become a trade war.

China imposed new tariffs on pork this week, pressuring producers who already are barely making ends meet, and now the two countries have released lists for the next group of products each would hit if disputes over intellectual property and other issues aren't resolved.

Updated April 4 to clarify the export percentage — China matters to the U.S. pork industry, as more than a quarter of all hogs raised here are shipped there. So, China’s decision to up its tariffs on 128 U.S. products, pork included, worried producers and rippled through the stock market.

Pages