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

Throughout the cropland of the Midwest, farmers use chemicals on their fields to nourish the plants and the soil. But excess nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients can wash off the fields and into streams, rivers and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

New tools can help farmers monitor their soil and water so they can become part of the solution to this widespread problem.

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 turkeys and egg-laying hens 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.

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.

“A rapid response is extremely important in an infectious disease outbreak like this,” said Jim Roth, head of the Center for Food Safety and Public Health at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Update: Avian influenza was found in a Foster Farms turkey flock in Stanislaus County, Calif., the company announced Monday. The outbreak is thought to be the first infection of this type of bird flu in a commercial flock in the U.S. In a previous version of this post, the location of the outbreak was incorrectly identified.

flickr/mostly dans

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

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.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Once again, the prognosticators are saying beef prices are on the rise. We’ve seen this before—last year, the drought and high feed prices were being blamed.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

This is the eleventh installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Part 2 of the Harvest Desk's series Changing Lands, Changing Hands travels to Iowa.  Driving out of the  town of Panora, in the western part of the state, the winding roads offer broad vistas of rolling hills. Many of the mailboxes along Redwood Road show the name Arganbright. Jim Arganbright grew up in this area, one of 10 children. He and his wife, Beverly, have eight kids.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

My Farm Roots,  a series from WUIS and Harvest Public Media, tells Americans’ stories and memories of rural life.  Because when you hail from farm country, roots run deep.
Times are good on the farm right now, but that hasn’t always been true. Many of today’s young farmers grew up in the shadow of the farm crisis on the 1980's and watched as rural areas were ripped apart by debt and foreclosures.
Those hard times will always stay with them.  Today, an Iowa farmer tells his story:

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.