In the period 1865-1900, technology, government policy, and economic conditions all changed American agriculture a great deal. New farming machinery had a large role in the late 19th century, giving farmers the opportunity to produce many more crops than they had ever been able to previously. The railroads had an enormous influence on agriculture. They were able to charge the farmers large fees, expenses that farmers barely had enough to cover, in order to transport their goods throughout the expansive country. The booming industry also changed American agriculture, creating monopolies and gaining incredible wealth with which the farmers simply could not compete. Economically, the monetary policy along with the steadily dropping prices of agricultural produce led farmers further into debt, eventually producing outcomes such as the crop-lien system and sharecropping. All of these tie into government policy, which, more often then not, favored the large and wealthy industries and monopolies over the farmers.
As Document ‘A’ shows, over the course of the 35 years from 1865-1900, agriculture went from good to bad. Wheat went from $2.16 a bushel to $.62. Cotton and corn both followed in a similar suit, dropping from $.83 to $.10 a pound and $.52 to $.35 a bushel, respectively. As farmers began getting less and less profit from their produce, they tried to compensate more and more by producing more. Over time, this caused overproduction, driving prices down even more. The trend of overproduction is also demonstrated in Document ‘A’. However, as Mary Elizabeth Lease points out in Document ‘G’, not all of the farmer’s hardships can be placed on overproduction alone.
Document ‘B’ is an ideal example of the way the Railroads grew from 1870 to 1890. As farmers exhausted soil in the eastern and central parts of the country, they had to continue spreading westward. As they expanded farther west, they (reluctantly) became more dependent on the monopolistic railroads. The...
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