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

Big cities in the Midwest are gaining ground on the rural communities that, for many decades, have thrived on the edges of urban development.

Since 1980, the amount of land being farmed or grazed in the U.S. has dropped 13 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Much of it now flaunts housing subdivisions, big-box stores and computer-server farms.

Outward growth from metropolitan areas can strain courts, schools and traffic. It also can change the cultural and regional identity of once-rural communities — something visible on the outskirts of two metro areas connected by Interstate 35 and an agricultural heritage: Des Moines, Iowa, and Kansas City, Missouri.

Clay Masters/IPR file photo

In 2006, voters elected Bill Northey to be Secretary of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Now, after 11 years, Northey has resigned from that job to accept an Under Secretary position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The legacy Northey leaves behind includes adoption of a statewide, voluntary effort to reduce nutrient runoff from farm fields into streams and rivers. He also oversaw two significant livestock disease outbreaks and leaves behind improved emergency preparedness plans.

courtesy of FilmScene

As Hollywood continues to react to allegations of sexual harassment embodied in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, an Iowa theater is celebrating movies made by women. “Women’s March” at FilmScene in Iowa City is a series of movies and special events limited only by one criteria: the directors are women.

Classics, documentaries, new releases and shorts made by University of Iowa students and alumnae all are on the schedule this month.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Iowa has a new secretary of agriculture and will be sending one of its own to Washington, D.C.

Former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig took the oath of office as secretary in a ceremony at the Iowa Supreme Court Monday afternoon. Naig will finish the rest of Bill Northey’s third term.

Northey resigned from the job earlier Monday, after the U.S. Senate confirmed him last week to be an Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Amy Mayer / IPR

When a man places 40 dozen eggs on the conveyor in the check-out line at the grocery store, it begs the question: What’s he going to do with all of them?

This happened to Kim Becker in Ames, Iowa. The man’s answer left her so gobsmacked, she posted it on Facebook:

Swine Genetics International (SGI) is about 20 minutes from that store.

“That could have been me or it could have been a number of people here,” SGI Chief of Operations Michael Doran says about the supermarket run.

Amy Mayer/IPR file

Four Republican senators met with President Donald Trump today to discuss the renewable fuel standard.

Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley visited the White House along with Ted Cruz of Texas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Ernst says the meeting yielded neither changes Cruz was looking for nor guarantees for ethanol that would have pleased the Iowans.

Cruz has spent months requesting such a meeting, arguing changes to the renewable fuels law are needed to protect oil refiners. But Ernst says he hasn’t provided a concrete problem.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Congress is close to righting an inadvertent wrong, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). At issue is a provision in the tax reform bill passed late last year that favors cooperatively-owned businesses, including many grain elevators.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode
Cory Doctorow

The Iowa Senate will take up a bill requiring all school districts to work with local law enforcement and emergency personnel to develop safety plans for an active shooter situation. The bill advanced out of committee the day after a deadly school shooting in Florida last week.

Manson Northwest Webster Community School District Superintendent Justin Daggett says his district has a protocol ready.

"It is something that we are trained and prepared for and we pray to God that we never have to do it," Daggett says.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

As agriculture intensified in the 20th century, summers in the Midwest became wetter and cooler.

Amy Mayer / IPR

No matter how far fruits or vegetables travel, whether they’re grown organically or conventionally, they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and other necessary nutrients. The men and women in the fields try to grow foods with an eye to boosting the health factor, but researchers say it’s hard to measure the precise impact.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Iowa’s senior senator says shouldering most of the cost of President Trump’s infrastructure plan will be challenging for states. But, Republican Chuck Grassley says crumbling bridges and unreliable locks and dams are an impediment to Iowa’s economy.

“Being able to move agriculture goods out of the Midwest and into the world market is critical to our competitiveness in the coming decades,” Grassley says. “To do that, we need to ensure that we have adequate river, rail and highway infrastructure to move billions of bushels of grain.”

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Supporters of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, based at Iowa State University, are making their case at the statehouse for reinstating the center’s funding.

Many people in Iowa agriculture, and across the region, expressed shock when the legislature took away the funding for the Leopold Center last spring. The center’s existence remains, thanks to a veto from then-Gov. Terry Branstad, but the state funding that made up the bulk of its budget was zeroed out.

Kristofor Husted / file: Harvest Public Media

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union Address Tuesday and the nation’s roads, bridges, rails and rivers will be on many people’s minds in the Midwest.

Trump has said he’s committed to improving the country’s infrastructure and now Mike Steenhoek, director of the Soy Transportation Coalition in Ankeny, wants to hear some specifics. Steenhoek says it’s an issue that cuts across many industries and speaks to people in all corners of the country.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

After two major livestock diseases ravaged Iowa’s poultry and hog industries, state and federal officials are asking farmers to prepare for future outbreaks. They are particularly concerned about viruses not yet found in North America.

Three illnesses they’re most worried about, foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever and African swine fever, wouldn’t sicken humans but could shut-down meat exports, which Iowa producers depend on for much of their income.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Now that the three-day partial federal government shutdown has ended, Iowa’s senior senator says it’s time to complete some unfinished business.

Republican Chuck Grassley says some 30 tax provisions that expired at the end of 2016 are top on his list, including one for biodiesel.

“Its lapse has created uncertainty for everyone from soybean farmers to biodiesel producers to truck stops,” Grassley says. “I’ve been strongly advocating for acting as soon as possible on extenders legislation that includes an extension of the biodiesel credit.”

Amy Mayer/IPR

In the coming months, Congress will map out how it’ll spend upwards of $500 billion on food and farm programs over the next five years.

The massive piece of legislation known as the farm bill affects all taxpayers — whether they know it or not — and runs the gamut from farm safety net and conservation programs to food stamps and loan guarantees for rural hospitals. Since the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, now is the time when interest groups, farmers and others with a stake clamor to ensure their desires will be heard.

John Pemble / IPR file photo

Congress faces a deadline Friday to pass a budget or a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. Iowa’s senior senator says multiple issues are caught up in the current impasse.

One of those is the status of young adults living under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Republican Chuck Grassley says he supports “legalizing” immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents, if that’s paired with other restrictions on immigration. 

Madeleine McCormick / IPR

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg were among those celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.

Gov. Reynolds named two women the recipients of the 2018 MLK Achievement Award.

CEO of Betty Andrews Media and President of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP Betty Andrews, and Des Moines Register Columnist Rekha Basu, received the award at a ceremony in Des Moines.

Andrews stood with her grandson to accept the award. She acknowledged that King’s legacy allowed social justice work to continue, and it will continue long after her time.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A nine-year study of cereal rye as a cover crop shows it can lead to higher soybean and corn yields, and that’s in addition to the environmental benefits it offers.

Two non-profits, Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa, compared strips of fields planted with cereal rye in the fall and those without it. The rye helps keep nutrients and soil in place, and also keeps down some weeds. Plus, in areas with multiple years of the cover crop, some farmers reported harvesting slightly more soybeans and corn.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

China is the largest importer of U.S. soybeans and, as of this week, the country wants more information on incoming containers.

Soybeans are tested for quality and the ones headed for China under most contracts can have up to two percent so-called foreign material—dirt, stems, grass and weed seeds, according to Iowa State University agricultural engineering professor Charles Hurburgh.

“The Chinese have observed certain weeds, the concentration—the levels—of certain weed seeds to be going up,” Hurburgh says.

Pat Blank/IPR

The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts its Census of Agriculture every five years, and farmers have just a few weeks remaining to return their 2017 forms.

Iowa’s deputy secretary of agriculture, Mike Naig, says business, universities, and local and national farm groups use Census of Agriculture data to inform funding and program decisions because the survey gets robust and unbiased results. But only when everyone eligible takes it seriously.

Christopher Gannon / courtesy of ISU

An Iowa State University professor’s lecture on what people ate during the Great Depression will be getting an audience well beyond her classroom.

History professor Pamela Riney-Kehrberg teaches a class called America Eats, which she describes as a food history of the United States. It caught the attention of C-SPAN, which filmed her this fall giving a lecture on the Great Depression.

Riney-Kehrberg says both food and the Great Depression seem to be topics that interest a broad array of people, which is why it felt like a good fit for C-SPAN’s national audience.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts consumers will be paying less for beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey in early 2018 than at the start of 2017. Not so for eggs.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Advanced biofuels have been touted as the next step beyond the corn-based ethanol that’s the bulk of the country’s renewable fuel for cars and trucks. These next-generation options were supposed to bring jobs to rural communities and provide farmers with fresh revenue sources, in addition to reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The value of Iowa’s farmland has increased 2 percent over the past year, but the uptick may not indicate improvements to the overall farm economy.

The annual Iowa Land Values Survey found the small increase this year after three consecutive years of farmland values slipping.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A new partnership between the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, which manages the federal crop insurance program, aims to keep more of Iowa’s farmland green in the off-season.

The cover crop premium discount will give farmers five dollars per acre off on their crop insurance premium for acres they plant with cover crops.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Sarah Carlson says in a national survey farmers indicated they wanted this type of program.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Now that Iowa farmers have most of their corn and soybeans out of the field and into the bins, the numbers suggest another great year for production… and another down year for prices.

Since 2014, the farm economy has been in a downturn, says Iowa State University extension economist Chad Hart. But he says most farms are muddling through.

File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Large livestock farms likely will have to report high levels of two types of emissions as of Wednesday, despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s last-minute effort to further delay a federal rule it’s been trying to modify for years.

The EPA tried to exempt most farms, including concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, from having to report emissions of two air pollutants — hydrogen sulfide or ammonia — that are considered hazardous.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Republican and Democratic senators from top corn- and ethanol-producing states say their pressure helped prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from changing rules governing renewable fuel production.

But at least one senator, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, says President Trump was their ace in the hole against an EPA chief who has deep ties to the oil and gas industry.

Amy Mayer/IPR

With former Gov. Terry Branstad as the U.S. ambassador to China, some Iowans see new opportunities for the state in that country.

“At the moment, as the former governor has taken up his position as the ambassador to Beijing, China’s on a lot of people’s minds,” says Jeffrey Kappen, a Drake University professor of international business. “And I and others would argue that we have a window of time where Iowa is on people’s minds in China and we should do everything we can do take advantage of the opportunity.”

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