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 photo

After a year that saw persistently low prices for many agricultural products — exacerbated by the retaliatory tariffs imposed on U.S. goods — farmers are eager for a recovery in 2019.

Pork producers have been working within the trade-war parameters since China imposed a hefty tariff in April. Northeast Iowa pig farmer Al Wulfkuhle said the sudden drop in Chinese demand for U.S. pork turned what had started as a promising year into a challenging one.

Inventorchris / Flickr

The arrest of a suspect in a 39-year-old murder case has police reminding fugitives that unsolved investigations are almost always ongoing. The Cedar Rapids Police have a man in custody accused of the 1979 killing of Michelle Martinko.

Chief Wayne Jerman says just because a case goes cold doesn’t mean it will remain that way.

“Police, law enforcement throughout the country are not going to stop,” he says. “Technology continues to evolve and we’re going to use it to our advantage in the pursuit of justice.”

Amy Mayer / IPR File Photo

Iowa’s junior senator is celebrating the release of a new rule defining what is considered a “water of the U.S.” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.

The WOTUS rule dates to the Obama administration and has been held up in court because some people felt it would put too much land under federal oversight.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

The value of farmland in Iowa has dropped slightly this year, according to the Iowa State University Land Values Survey.

Wendong Zhang, an economics professor at ISU, collects information from realtors, lenders, appraisers and other people who monitor farm sales and transitions. He says the 0.8 percent decrease in farmland value compared to last year is partly still a correction from the record-high values of 2013. This is the fourth time in the past five years that land values have decreased.

Amy Mayer / IPR

In a lab at George Washington University, painted lady butterflies flutter in mesh houses. This is where assistant professor Arnault Martin and his research group use the new gene-editing technique CRISPR to unlock secrets about the colors and spots on the butterflies’ wings.

CRISPR has allowed them to isolate a precise gene that controls wing appearance, and they can shut it off at will.

Amy Mayer/IPR file / IPR

Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator is calling on President Donald Trump to appoint a new attorney general to replace former Iowa prosecutor Matt Whitaker. Whitaker became acting attorney general after the president forced out Jeff Sessions.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says Whitaker’s controversial history is attracting scrutiny.

“We got an acting attorney general? Appoint somebody and all these questions about Whitaker would go away,” Grassley told reporters on Tuesday, “unless Whitaker was his nominee. Then, of course, they’d be enhanced a great deal.”

Amy Mayer / IPR

Farmers know every year they’re going to encounter surprises from things out of their control, like drought or pests.

This year, great growing conditions led to a bin-busting soybean harvest, but a tit-for-tat exchange of tariffs with China meant that country went from being a major buyer to virtually ignoring U.S. soybeans.

That’s caused prices to drop, leaving U.S. farmers and grain elevators struggling to store soybeans until prices or demand improves. Those factors threaten to undermine the soybean futures contract, and federal regulators have until Dec. 10 to review a proposed solution to the problem.

Iowa DOT

Travelers in central Iowa may face some short-term inconveniences where Interstate 35 meets U.S. 30 in Ames, but the new overpass currently under construction should ultimately make the interchange safer.

During several nights this month, the northbound lanes of I-35 have closed overnight as contractors placed beams over the road on new abutments. Soon, that work will finish and southbound travelers will face detours.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Farmers started forming co-ops nearly a century ago, primarily to get better prices for their crops. They pooled their resources, put up storage bins and gained leverage with buyers.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

When the new Congress convenes in January, the Democratic-controlled House could make big changes to the next farm bill. But farmers may have to wait a while for it.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

When former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey was tapped for a federal job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year, his old job was filled by his deputy secretary of agriculture, Mike Naig.

Last spring, Naig ran for the Republican nomination in a crowded primary but did not win outright and later secured the nomination in a convention vote. Naig faces two challengers.

Who are the candidates?

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.

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