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 file

The last cellulosic ethanol plant making biofuel from corn plant residue is downsizing.

POET-DSM’s Project Liberty in Emmetsburg, Iowa, came online in 2014. On Tuesday the joint venture between POET and DSM North America announced it’s scaling back from commercial production of the advanced biofuel to a research and development mission focused on exporting its technology.

Amy Mayer / IPR

During 2019, the curveballs thrown at farmers began with the partial government shutdown in January, when some U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies were closed. Spring brought a storm system—called a bomb cyclone—that dumped rain on top of frozen fields unable to make use of it, kicking off weeks of flooding exacerbated by additional precipitation. Planting ran later than usual and some farmers never got a cash crop into certain saturated fields.

By high summer, parts of the Corn Belt experienced drought conditions and some farmers were still harvesting corn and soybeans after the first snow fell in autumn.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is laying out its plan for hemp production, 10 months after the 2018 farm bill paved the way for farmers to grow it. 

The new federal program, which will be published Thursday in the Federal Register, is an “interim final rule” open to public comment. It would require farmers to secure a license from the USDA or their state if they want to grow hemp. 

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The comment period is open on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed fix to the ethanol demand it has tinkered with in recent months.

For weeks, the ethanol industry has pressed the federal government to formally account for gallons it exempted small refineries from blending when the EPA approved 31 small refinery waivers.

Amy Mayer / IPR

The State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa, has sloped auditorium-style seating and plenty of outlets to keep laptops and cell phones charged. This is where officials gather during and immediately after tornadoes and massive flooding.

It’s the center for crisis control. 

Amy Mayer / IPR

The founder of a global vegetable seed company will receive the 2019 World Food Prize in a ceremony Thursday at the Iowa State Capitol.

courtesy of Red Fern Farm

It may be harvest season, but Iowa’s chestnut trees don’t have much to offer after spending 10 consecutive months in soil with too much moisture.

Rains began saturating soils in September 2018, an abrupt hard freeze in November locked in the moisture, spring brought repeated freeze-thaw cycles and then more rain.  

Tom Wahl of Red Fern Farm in Louisa County has about a thousand chestnut trees and usually they produce a lucrative crop on his diverse farm.  

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The United States will not implement increases to tariffs on Chinese goods that were scheduled for Oct. 15. This slight easing of trade tensions follows productive meetings in Washington last week that President Donald Trump says led to a tentative trade deal.

courtesy Mark Gleason

By design, organic agriculture limits the products that can be applied to crops to kill pests and weeds, so farmers often look for other strategies to reduce risk.

Short, fabric-covered tunnels could be the solution for certain organic crops. Researchers at Iowa State University have developed mid-sized mesh-covered tunnels, dubbed “mesotunnels,” that let sunlight and rain in, but keep many bugs out.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Japan’s Parliament is convening this month and will likely take up a new trade deal with the United States. If enacted, the agreement might bring some good news to farmers, but no one really knows. 

Official language of the deal has not yet been made public, though the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said it would increase access to the Japanese market for U.S. wheat, pork, and beef.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Travel back just two short months to a quintessential scene: it’s a farm so close to suburban sprawl you can practically see the retail developments from the gravel road. A large American flag hangs from the door of a big, white barn. Classic red tractors surround an area filled with folding chairs as music is piped in and volunteers in Amy for America T-shirts work the crowd with clipboards in hand.

This is LaVon and Craig Griffieon’s family farm in Ankeny and on this day it’s the site of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s campaign event announcing her proposals for agriculture.


Amy Mayer / IPR file

Small farmers and their allies are responding to comments the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture made this week that suggested only big farms are likely to survive.

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Sonny Perdue told a gathering of dairy farmers in Wisconsin. He added that even 100 cows might not be enough to turn a profit. The comments come at a time when dairy farmers across the country, but especially in the upper Midwest, are struggling.

University of Illinois agriculture policy professor Jonathan Coppess found the comment “shocking.”

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

On a hot September day, five Japanese men arrived at Rod Pierce’s central Iowa farm. They represented feed mills and livestock cooperatives, and were there to see the corn they may eventually buy. 

Pierce invited them to walk among his rows of corn, climb into the cab of an 8-head combine and poke their heads into one his empty grain storage bins. 

Pierce grows mostly corn on his 1,700 acres and he knows about one-fifth of the corn grown in the United States gets exported. Japan’s second only to Mexico as a customer of U.S. corn. 

Amy Mayer / IPR

Emergency planners and agriculture officials have spent this week testing their preparedness for a deadly pig disease outbreak.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Iowa’s ethanol producers and farmers may soon hear some positive news after weeks of turmoil, according to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who met with White House, Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency officials last week.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The national average price for corn this season is back to $3.60 a bushel, about where it’s been most of this year except for an early-season spike ($4.16 in July) before the size and quality of the crop was known. 

That’s not great news for corn growers, and for the ethanol part of the market, the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates are even worse.

courtesy Iowa DOT

A three-year-long construction project to improve safety at the U.S. 30 - Interstate 35 interchange in Ames is nearly complete.

courtesy Steve Kenkel / www.hybridcorncollector.com

Shelby County farmer Steve Kenkel has lived on a century farm his entire life, growing corn and soybeans today with all the trappings of modern farming.

But in three buildings on his property he has amassed a collection of equipment, advertising signs and seed corn sacks that document the transition from traditional hand or horse-drawn tools through the arrival of hybrid seed corn and into the mid-20th century’s gas or diesel-powered tractors. His Hybrid Corn Pioneers Museum showcases his 20 years of collecting.

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

The United States and Canada must ratify an agreement that Mexico has already approved to put into place a trade deal the three countries negotiated to update and replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

Even though the Midwest is tops in field corn production and grows row after row of it, these states don't stand out when it comes to national production of sweet corn. 

 

But for many in the region, nothing says summer quite like a fresh hot ear of sweet corn — plain, buttered or salted.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Iowa’s senior senator has some harsh words for the Environmental Protection Agency following its decision to release more than two dozen small oil refineries from their obligations to blend ethanol into gasoline.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

A monthly report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture assessing the global supply and demand of key crops had mixed messages for Midwest farmers Monday.

The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) for August found that the number of acres of corn and soybeans farmers are on track to harvest this fall is more than earlier predictions, meaning the wet spring and late planting in some areas didn’t have as adverse an effect as USDA initially estimated.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Democratic presidential candidate and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar chose a family farm in Ankeny that nearly abuts suburban housing as the backdrop for her farm and rural policy announcement Wednesday.

Critics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to move two of its research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area got more ammunition this week.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The roar of diesel buses, and more importantly the pollution they emit, will be reduced when CyRide, a partnership between Iowa State University, its students and the city of Ames, gets its first two all-electric buses.

CyRide received a $1.66 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority’s Low or No Emission Bus Program for the buses and the changes to the garage that will be necessary to accommodate charging them.

John Pemble / IPR file

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are back at the negotiating table to continue talks about trade with China.

Their meeting in Shanghai with Chinese counterparts comes a day after the U.S. Department of Agriculture opened the sign-up period for farmers seeking aid to mitigate the impact of tariffs on their exports.

It’s been two months since the countries last met to discuss trade and in the interim, China had agreed to buy some U.S. agricultural products, but those sales have not yet begun.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

The threat of a deadly hog disease is prompting state officials to tighten security at swine events during the Iowa State Fair.

For nearly a year, U.S. pork producers have watched African swine fever decimate China’s pig herd and they fear it could arrive here. It doesn’t hurt people or contaminate food, but it could wipe out many farms and send pork prices soaring.

Midwestern fish farmers grow a variety of species, such as tilapia, salmon, barramundi and shrimp, all of which require a high-protein diet. The region grows copious amounts of soybeans, which have a lot of protein, but these two facts have yet to converge.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris of California campaigned in Iowa on the 4th of July.

Harris greeted hundreds of Iowans on a hot afternoon in the yard of a private home in Indianola. Farm fields lent a backdrop to the senator’s criticism of the current administration’s trade policy.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The annual Des Moines Arts Festival returns this weekend with a new attraction.

"Where Agriculture Meets Art" will display images of female farmers that Marji Guyler-Alaniz photographed as part of her FarmHer project.

FarmHer began as a way to share the untold female stories of agriculture, Guyler-Analiz said during an interview outside a recent event she hosted in downtown Des Moines.

Pages