Amy Mayer

Reporter, Harvest Public Media

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. Amyââââ

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Harvest Public Media
8:19 am
Wed July 23, 2014

My Farm Roots: Carrying On A Farm Family Legacy

For four generations, Riley Lewis’ family has farmed a plot of land near Forest City, Iowa. Lewis currently raises corn, soybeans and hogs.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In his home in Forest City, Iowa, Riley Lewis has the original warranty deed for his farm, signed by President James Buchanan and issued to one Elias Gilbert, a soldier who served in the War of 1812.

“He moved here, northeast of Forest City, and lived there for one year,” Lewis said, which was the obligation veterans had if they homesteaded. “And then he sold it to Robert Clark, who was the founder of Forest City.”

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Harvest Public Media
8:25 am
Mon July 21, 2014

On Front Lines, Farmers Struggle Against Chemical-Resistant Weeds

The arrangement of the leaves helped Hargrafen distinguish Palmer amaranth from other pigweeds.
Amy Mayer Harvest Public Media

A fast spreading, crop destroying weed may be coming to the farms near you.

Palmer amaranth, which has plagued southern farms for decades, has been marching across the Midwest. It can decimate a crop. It can withstand many common herbicides. And it can cost farmers millions.

Roger Hargrafen, a farmer in Muscatine County, Iowa, is on the front lines in the battle against Palmer amaranth. His is one of four Iowa farms confirmed as having it.

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Harvest Public Media
7:45 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Acres Of Genetically Modified Corn Nearly Doubled In A Decade

More than 90 percent of U.S. field corn is genetically modified, according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Harvest Public Media
9:59 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Soybean Acres Up, Corn Down In This Year's Planting

Farmers have planted a record number of acres in soybeans this year, while planting fewer in corn.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers planted a record number of soybean acres this season. But corn is flat in several Midwestern states, while down slightly in others.

Those are some of the takeaways from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report on planted grain acres for the season, which offers the first glimpse of production for 2014.

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Agriculture
1:05 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Feed The Future Seeks Hunger Solutions From The Heartland

Kurt Rosentrater, center, and Mamun Ur Rashid, in blue shirt, meet with workers at a feed mill in Bangladesh as part of a project designed to improve fish feed in the developing world.
Credit Courtesy Kurt Rosentrater

  Global hunger has no easy answer.

But as part of a partnership with the federal government called Feed the Future, researchers at land-grant universities are trying new approaches to the decades-old dilemma.

“The world’s poorest people, and hungriest people, generally, the majority of them are small farmers living in rural areas,” said Tjada D’oyen McKenna, deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future. “And agriculture is the most effective means of bringing them out of poverty and under-nutrition.”

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Harvest Public Media
7:49 am
Tue May 27, 2014

Is Corn Dust Killing Bees?

Bees at these hives near a corn field in Cherokee, Iowa, must pass through a yellow plastic trap that scrapes off a bit of pollen. Researchers are studying whether insecticide-coated seeds could be harming the bee population.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Nathan Anderson stops his red pick-up truck alongside a cornfield on his farm near Cherokee, Iowa. The young farmer pulls on a heavy brown hoodie, thick, long, sturdy gloves and a beekeeper’s hat with a screened veil. He approaches a pair of hives sitting on the edge of a field recently planted with corn and adjusts a yellow plastic flap that traps some of the pollen the bees bring back to their hive.

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Harvest Public Media
7:42 am
Thu May 22, 2014

Iowa Egg Farm Charged In Salmonella Outbreak

Credit Pietro Izzo / Flickr--CC

The former operators of a large egg farm in Iowa have agreed to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with a major salmonella outbreak in 2010.

Federal officials have charged Austin “Jack” DeCoster, his son Peter and their company, Quality Egg, with allowing the salmonella-contaminated eggs to reach consumers. They’re also charged with mislabeling eggs and attempting to bribe a USDA inspector. More than 500 million eggs were recalled and at least 2,000 people became sick from the outbreak.

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Harvest Public Media
2:36 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Climate Change Report: Short-Term Benefits, Long-Term Worries For Farmers

Climate change has contributed to record corn yields, but over the long term it's likely to have a negative impact on agriculture.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The White House’s new climate change report predicts threats to agriculture, including severe weather, more pests and greater demands for water and energy.

The third National Climate Assessment is a summary of the current science about the nation’s climate and how it’s changing written by a panel of expert scientists.

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Harvest Public Media
7:39 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Integrated Local Food System Can Grow The Market

In the kitchen at Decorah (IA) High School, Chad Elliott ladles out tomato soup. The school system sources many ingredients locally.
Amy Mayer Harvest Public Media

The smell of baking dinner rolls fills the kitchen at Decorah High School in northeast Iowa. As two kitchen workers mix a fresh broccoli salad, another, Chad Elliott, ladles tomato soup from a large metal pot on the stove into white plastic buckets for delivery to the town’s elementary schools.

Elliott says most of the food served in the district is made from scratch and many ingredients come from local farms and dairies.

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Harvest Public Media
8:00 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Public, Private Partners Key To Local Food Success

Local university extension agents often help maintain local food systems. Teresa Wiemerslage, with Iowa State University, works with the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

As Food Corps service member Ashley Turk navigates her way through a brand-new greenhouse in the courtyard at Waukon High School in the northeast corner of Iowa, she points to a robust supply of red and green lettuce leaves growing neatly in rows.

“It’s huge,” she says. “We cut it off and it just keeps growing.”

The greenhouse lettuce is among the offerings in the school’s salad bar. And students will soon be growing carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables, Turks says.

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Agriculture
9:35 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Hog Farmers Required To Report Disease Outbreaks

The PED virus has hit hog farms all over the country and cut pork supplies.
Credit File: Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Hog farmers are now required to report outbreaks of certain viral diseases that have spread across the country during the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Harvest Public Media
8:32 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Corn Farmers Fight Rootworm Resistance

New research confirms what many Midwest farmers have already suspected: The corn rootworm can develop resistance to varieties genetically modified to thwart the pest. Here, rootworm damage in an Iowa field ruined a corn crop.
Credit Courtesy / Aaron Gassmann

After a long battle with corn rootworm, Midwest farmers thought they’d found relief in genetically modified seeds engineered to produce toxins deadly to the pest. But recent research confirms what farmers have been noticing for several years: the western corn rootworm has been evolving to outwit the technology.

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Harvest Public Media
7:57 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Bring Home The Bacon: Virus Cutting Pork Supplies

A sow weans her healthy piglets on Borgic’s farm. He says he has managed to rid his farm of PED, but must remain vigilant.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Bacon-loving shoppers prepare yourselves: A virus that has devastated piglets for nearly a year is causing lower pork supplies and higher prices.

Farmer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., knows firsthand what happens when porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus infects a hog barn. He walked through one in late January, pointing out the differences among litters.

“This is a PED litter. See how dirty they are?” he said, pointing to a sow whose little piglets had dirty hooves.

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Harvest Public Media
8:20 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Farmers Bid Farewell To Big Expense Tax Write-Offs

It could be yet another sign that the good times are over.

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Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Farmers Play The Markets, Learn To Avoid Risk

: Robbie Maass shows his mother, Leah, the Commodity Challenge game that is helping him understand market tools. Leah Maass says her farm could benefit from better use of the tools and she’s hoping Robbie will be able to learn how to put them to work for the family
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a frigid winter day, Chad Hart tries to warm his economics students at Iowa State University to the idea of managing some of the risk of farming using the commodity markets. Because, as he told them on the first day of class, farmers don’t make money planting or harvesting crops; they make money selling them. And Hart knows that marketing—managing those sales for the best profit—can be intimidating.

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Harvest Public Media
7:10 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Preliminary Data From Ag Census Shows Aging Farmers, Declining Farms

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is beginning to release figures from its 2012 Census of Agriculture. An early standout in the data is the value of products being sold.

Greg Thessen, with the USDA’s agricultural statistics service, says sales figures come shining through in the preliminary data.

"The biggest thing it showed was the large increase in the market value of products that farmers sold in 2012," he said.

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Agriculture
9:28 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Making The Leap: How Niche Crops Go Mainstream

Andrew Pittz and his family operate a commercial aronia berry farm in Iowa, which supplies berries and value-added products to retailers nationwide.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In the Midwest, crop agriculture often gets divided between the major commodities – corn, soybeans and wheat – and everything else. Diverting acres away from a major commodity to an un-tested crop is risky, but sometimes agronomics and market forces meet in a sweet spot and farmers can reap the benefits of innovation.

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Agriculture
4:37 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Years In The Making, New Farm Bill Becomes Law

President Obama signs the Agriculture Act of 2014 as members of Congress and the Cabinet look on.
Credit Courtesy Stephen Carmody / Michigan Radio

  President Barak Obama signed the new farm bill into law Friday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, ending years of negotiations and wrangling.

With farm equipment, hay bales and crates of apples setting the stage, the president told the crowd that this farm bill – officially called the Agriculture Act of 2014 – will save taxpayer dollars while also offering support to farmers and ranchers. And he says that helps the whole country.

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Harvest Public Media
8:05 am
Mon February 3, 2014

2014 Farm Bill Would Change U.S. Ag Policy

More than two years in the making, the farm bill process has been a long slog for lawmakers on Washington D.C.’s Capitol Hill and farmers alike.
Credit greetarchurch / Flickr--CC

It’s getting so close now … Last week the U.S. House passed the Agriculture Act of 2014, the new farm bill. The Senate is expected to take it up Monday. President Obama’s signature could be on it in the coming days and then … boom!

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The Salt
4:05 am
Sun January 26, 2014

Pig Virus Continues To Spread, Raising Fears Of Pricier Bacon

Piglets at Hilldale Farm in State Center, Iowa in March 2013, just before porcine epidemic diarrhea began spreading through hog farms in the U.S.
Amy Mayer Harvest Public Media

Pork producers across the country are grappling with a virus that's going after piglets. Livestock economists estimate the porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PED, virus has already killed about 1 million baby pigs in the U.S. since it was first found in Iowa last spring.

Canada reported its first case Thursday, and the disease shows no sign of abating. That has veterinarians worried.

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Harvest Public Media
8:45 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Virus Continues To Rip Through Hog Farms

Experts estimate Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus has already killed about 1 million baby pigs and the disease shows no sign of abating.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Pork producers across the country are continuing to grapple with a virus that’s killing their piglets. Experts estimate Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus has already killed about 1 million baby pigs and the disease shows no sign of abating.

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Harvest Public Media
7:55 am
Mon December 30, 2013

As 2013 Comes To A Close, Still No Farm Bill

Farmers across the United States worry as the farm bill continues to be stuck in gridlock at the nation's Capitol.
Credit Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

For the second straight year, farmers are heading into a new year without a farm bill. The massive package provides government support for farmers and ranchers. But, divisions in Congress, including over the nutrition programs that make up the bulk of the spending, have kept it from the president’s desk.

Farmers say it’s difficult to plan their crops and make other business decisions without a farm bill. Instead, Iowa State University agricultural economist Chad Hart says farmers must focus on the information they have.

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Harvest Public Media
8:49 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Poultry Inspection Rules In Focus On Capitol Hill

A bipartisan group of senators is pressuring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize changes to the way poultry is inspected.

The new system is controversial. Advocates say it would save taxpayer money by shifting certain inspection duties from federal employees to company workers and allowing for faster processing. Some inspectors and consumer groups, though, oppose the changes and say it could compromise food safety.

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Harvest Public Media
7:52 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Farm Bill Falls Victim To Polarization, Gridlock In Washington

Reps. Colin Peterson, Frank Lucas and Steve King listen as members of the farm bill conference committee give opening statements.
Credit House Agriculture Committee / Facebook page

If it seems like Congress just can’t get the farm bill done, well … that’s because it can’t.

All year long, Washington lawmakers have been saying they want to pass a full five-year farm bill. But even though leaders of the House-Senate conference committee say they are close, they have acknowledged it just won’t get done this year. They’re pushing it off until January.

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Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Tue December 3, 2013

How Microbes Can Help Farmers Feed People

Researchers at chemical company BASF are working to harness bacteria and microbes for beneficial purposes.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers and scientists have long understood that what lives beneath the soil affects how crops grow. Often, they work to fight plant diseases—warding off infectious viruses and damaging fungi, for example. But now some microbiologists are focused on how to harness the good things microbes can do, with the goal of increasing farmers’ yields and diminishing their dependence on chemical inputs.

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Agriculture
9:21 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Schools In Missouri And Kansas Spending More On Local Food

School districts in both Kansas and Missouri spent more than ten percent of their food budget buying from local farms in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Census. That means efforts to fill cafeteria trays with local foods have plenty of room to grow.

Across the Midwest, most states report 25 to 50 percent of their school districts are buying from local farms, growing edible gardens or teaching nutrition—all parts of USDA’s Farm to School effort.

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Harvest Public Media
7:43 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Consumers Often Lost In The Middle Of Scientific Food Battles

Non-genetically modified soybeans – like these from a Polk County, Iowa, farm – are rare in the U.S., where debate continues on the efficacy of genetically modified food products.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hot-button food issues of the day, such as the use of genetically modified organisms or the treatment of livestock, tend to pit large industries against smaller activist groups. Often, both sides will claim the science supports what they are saying. That can leave consumers, most of whom aren’t scientists, in a bit of a bind.

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Harvest Public Media
3:21 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Technology Looks To Prevent Grain Bin Entrapments

At a Mid-Iowa Cooperative elevator in Tama County, Iowa, a control room has monitors that show the conditions in each bin, which means grain workers don’t have to investigate issues.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Across the rural Midwest, landscapes are dotted with tall, cylindrical storage containers for grain. Some belong to commercial grain elevators, but increasingly farmers want to market their grain throughout the year so they install their own storage bins right on the farm. Maintaining the quality of that grain requires vigilance—and can present safety concerns. In particular, the risk of entrapment when a person enters a bin to check on the grain.

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Harvest Public Media
7:36 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Is There A Tilt In Pork Board-Funded Research?

John Mabry, an animal science professor at Iowa State University, has a grant from the National Pork Board to study nutrition in Berkshire hogs.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

When a new disease — known as PEDV —turned up in the U.S. hog industry in May and threatened to kill whole litters of piglets, the National Pork Board quickly responded with $450,000 in research funding.

A fast-track review process put funds in U.S. labs in two weeks, said Paul Sundberg, the board’s vice president for science and technology. Normally, it takes months for the board’s volunteer committees to decide research priorities.

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Harvest Public Media
7:52 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Expected Bumper Crop Has Price Of Corn Dropping

Farmers have been riding a wave of high corn prices in recent years, but an expected bumper crop has corn prices dropping.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a clear fall day in central Iowa, Aaron Lehman climbed into the cab of his green combine with a screwdriver to do some maintenance. He was hoping his corn had a couple more weeks to grow before harvesting because the price per bushel this fall is much lower than it has been for the past three years.

Corn farmers have been riding high prices for the last few years. But an expected bumper crop has prices falling this harvest season, and many economists expect the price of corn to drop to its lowest level in recent years.

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