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. 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 / Harvest Public Media

The Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal will change tariffs on agricultural exports, but for Midwest farmers and ranchers, the devil is in the details.

The TPP agreement could cut tariffs levied by many countries on U.S. exports like pork and rice, making it easier to get some products into markets in Asia.

Hen Housing Ruffles Some Feathers In The Egg Industry

Nov 4, 2015
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Cage-free eggs could be coming to a breakfast near you.

Several large food companies and restaurants, from Starbucks to McDonald’s to Kellogg’s, announced timelines this year for phasing out eggs laid in conventional cages, a victory for animal welfare advocates who have pushed for changes for years.

But there is more to housing hens than square inches and some egg farmers argue the cage-free barns are less humane than traditional hen housing.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

One of the most important tools of modern medicine is in jeopardy. In the 20th century, antibiotics turned once-lethal infections into manageable diseases. They also contributed to the transformation of meat production in America.

Now, overuse of the drugs in both humans and animals is to blame for the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control blames for at least 23,000 deaths a year.

"We are nearly on the brink of being back in the pre-antibiotic era," said Loreen Herwaldt, a University of Iowa professor of infectious disease and internal medicine. "And that's pretty scary, in terms of not having anything to treat people with who have serious infections."

Farmers Prepare For Autumn Bird Flu Flare Up

Sep 1, 2015
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers and agriculture officials are gearing up for another round of bird flu this fall, an outbreak they fear could be worse than the devastating spring crisis that hit egg layers and turkeys in the Midwest, wiped out entire farms and sent egg prices sky-high.

The potential target of the highly pathogenic avian flu this fall could be broilers, or meat chickens, as the outbreaks have been triggered and carried by wild birds, which will be flying south in great numbers this fall through several U.S. flyways.

The farmers who got hit this spring, which lead to the destruction of more than 48 million birds, know how life-changing a flu outbreak can be.

Careful Food Formulation Can Yield Trendy Label Claims

Jun 10, 2015
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Walk down a grocery store aisle today and you’re likely to find lots of food…and lots of marketing claims. Whether a product’s label says it’s low in fat, produced without hormones, or a good source of protein is largely governed by consumer demand and corporate profit.

Long before a new product gets onto a store shelf, a team has to work diligently in the lab to come up with a recipe formula that will earn it the label claims discerning customers want, while still netting the company a profit. Students at Iowa State University get a real-life glimpse of how that works in the Food Product Development class.

What It Takes To Get Processed Food From Lab To Market

Jun 9, 2015
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The packaged foods found in supermarkets, convenience stores and vending machines are full of ingredients you often can’t pronounce. They’ve been carefully developed and tested in a lab and likely have been shipped long distances. They can hold up to weeks or even months on the shelf. But most of them began with fresh food you might cook with at home.

File: Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

As the number of farms hit with avian flu grows over 100 nationwide, regulators are implementing containment plans meant to stop the virus’ spread, spare millions of at-risk birds and thousands of poultry farms.

Farms in many states, including Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, are struggling to contain an active outbreak.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

It’s planting time for Midwest farmers and much of the corn they grow will end up feeding livestock in China, which has become a huge importer of grain from the Corn Belt. That means the farmers can’t just select seeds based on which ones will get the best yield. They have to think about where their grain will be sold.

China has its own rules for the kind of crops it wants and when American farmers don’t comply, China can close off its market.

Poultry Industry Warily Watches Bird Flu Outbreak

Jan 27, 2015
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Since a highly contagious strain of bird flu was found in the U.S. in December, many countries have closed their doors to chickens and turkeys raised here.

The virus isn’t harmful to humans. So far, mostly wild birds and backyard flocks have been infected, though bird flu was recently detected in a Foster Farms turkey flock in California. Commercial poultry farmers are worried because they have the most to lose.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Demand for products that don’t contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is exploding.  

Many food companies are seeking certification that their products don’t have any genetically modified ingredients, and not just the brands popular in the health food aisle. Even plain Cheerios, that iconic cereal from General Mills, no longer contains GMOs.

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