These days Monsanto is shorthand for, as NPR's Dan Charles has put it, "lots of things that some people love to hate": Genetically modified crops, which Monsanto invented. Seed patents, which Monsanto has fought to defend. Herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup, which protesters have sharply criticized for its possible health risks. Big agriculture in general, of which Monsanto was the reviled figurehead. And soon Monsanto will be no more.
The University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension has reduced its fleet, bought out ranks of rural agents, and cut the number of positions across the state. Now farmers stand to lose access to 100 years of knowledge at a time when they need it most. Between 2007 and 2012, Lafayette, a county with just under 17,000 people, lost around 90 of its small and medium-sized farms (those under 1,000 acres). During that same five-year span, the county’s total farmland grew, with the average farm expanding by almost 40 acres. Since 2012, record harvests across the country have created an oversupply of product, and depressed prices for corn and soybeans—the backbone of Lafayette County’s farm economy.
Bayer AG won U.S. antitrust approval for its $66 billion takeover of Monsanto Co., clearing the last major regulatory hurdle to forming the world’s biggest seed and agricultural-chemicals provider after a nearly two-year review.