Amy Mayer

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

Pork Supply & Prices
8:01 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Bring home the bacon: Virus cutting pork supplies

Illinois hog farmer Phil Borgic says the PED virus killed many of his piglets. The virus is expected to cut pork supplies this year.
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.

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Commodity Challenge
8:00 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

A fantasy game for realizing farm profit

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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Historical perspective on farm bill
8:00 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

The uneasy marriage of farm bill and food stamps

For decades, government agriculture policy has tied farm programs to federal food aid. Grocery displays like this one were common in the wake of the creation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation in the 1930s.
National Archives

Both farmers and food stamps advocates sighed in relief Friday when President Obama signed the  long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 – the $956-billion farm bill – into law on Friday during a visit to Michigan State University.  The farm bill process was fraught with ups and downs and the loose coalition tying nutrition and farm programs seemed barely able to survive.

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Farm bill analysis
8:00 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

New farm bill changes U.S. ag policy

President Obama signed the long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 – the $956-billion farm bill – into law on Friday, February 7, 2014.

Not everyone likes the farm bill signed into law on Friday, but at least farmers will be able to start making informed decisions.

The biggest change in the 2014 farm bill is that the subsidies known as direct payments are gone. Instead of the government paying a known amount to farmers each year—at a fixed budget of $5 billion—the new system of subsidies will fluctuate, partly with market forces. That makes it really hard to predict how much the program will cost each year, says Iowa State University ag economist Chad Hart.

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The Salt
12:05 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 story
8:05 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

One thing that didn’t happen in 2013: a Farm Bill

Farm Bill conference committee meeting in October of 2013
Credit Iowa Public Television

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 story
4:17 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Another deadline passes without a farm bill deal

Credit www2.dupont.com

Hear the audio version of Amy's story

If it seems like Congress just can’t get the farm bill done, well… that’s because it can’t. The massive food and agriculture package used to be relatively easy thanks to bipartisan and urban-rural alliances. But this year, progress was a slow slog. A nine-month extension passed in January bought some time. This summer, the Senate passed its bill, but the House didn’t. Then it sent two bills to the conference committee, one for agriculture and the other for food stamps. Just before Thanksgiving, Iowa Republican Steve King, a conference committee member, remained optimistic.

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Harvest Public Media story
5:59 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Under the microscope: Microbes can help farmers

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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Harvest Public Media story
5:46 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Science not likely to decide food issues

Panelists, including Frances Moore Lappe (second from left), speak to a symposium at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.
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 story
7:39 pm
Sun October 6, 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 www2.dupont.com

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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Harvest Public Media storyH
8:15 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

Technology looks to prevent grain bin entrapments

Scott Haugan of HOWGAN SCC, in Marhsalltown, Iowa, has a classroom set up to teach new customers how his grain bin monitoring equipment and software work.
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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The Salt
8:54 am
Mon April 29, 2013

Pork Producers Root Out Market Niche With Berkshire Pigs

Berkshire pigs on Happy Hula Farm, a member of the Eden Farms collective.
Amy Mayer Iowa Public Radio

Originally published on Mon April 29, 2013 10:08 am

Raising pork can be a tough business for producers, who've lately been watching feed prices rise along with the cost of corn. That's one reason why a small but growing number of former commodity pork producers are trying their luck with specialty breeds instead. These premium pigs, raised on small farms with methods that appeal to consumers, can also fetch a premium price.

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Harvest Public Media story
3:14 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

Taxing complications for farmers and an April 15 deadline

This tax season is an unusual one for farmers.

“Farmers didn’t necessarily have a great crop to harvest, but they harvested a huge amount of income last year. It was one of the biggest years, inflation-adjusted, since going back to the 1970s,” said Roger McEowen, who runs the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University.

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Genetically Modified Organisms
6:26 am
Mon February 25, 2013

The seeds of genetic modification

The vast majority of the corn and soybeans in United States grow from seeds that have been genetically modified. The technology is barely 30 years old and the controversy surrounding it somewhat younger. But how did it even become possible?

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NPR Story
11:39 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

Farmers Cautious Of Drought-Resistant Seeds

Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 3:31 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here in the United States, the corn harvest is nearly complete. It was earlier and much smaller than in recent years, which means stockpiles are lower and prices will likely be higher. Now, while this summer's drought is largely to blame, the dry weather did offer perfect conditions to test drought-resistant corn. As Iowa Public Radio's Amy Mayer reports, seed companies and farmers are now crunching the yield numbers to see what these new varieties could mean in coming years.

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