From 1880-1906, western farmers were affected by multiple issues that they saw as threats to their way of life. The main threats to the farmers were railroads, trusts, and the government, because these institutions all had the power to drastically affect the ability of the farmers to make profits. Therefore, the farmers were not wrong to feel frustration toward those institutions when the institutions caused the farmers to live lives of increasingly extreme poverty. The main source of agrarian discontent with the railroads was a result of the rising railroad rates that made it increasingly difficult for the farmers to make a decent living by shipping their crops via freight trains. In a book called The Octopus, a farmer named Dyke planned to ship his hops and was shocked upon discovering that the railroad rate had increased from two cents per pound to five cents per pound, rendering him unable to make any profit at all (Document H). This practice of raising the railroad rates without warning was unfair to the farmers and made it virtually impossible for any farmer to make a profit by shipping his crops.
The farmers were also largely affected by the activity of trusts and banks and the control that trusts exerted on their particular lines of business. In a book by James B. Weaver the argument is made that trusts were in complete control of the situation, having power over both the producer of raw materials and the consumer of the products (Document F). In most cases, the farmers fell under both categories, and the trusts often took full advantage, buying raw goods from farmers at very low prices that made it very difficult for farmers to profit and selling back the completed goods at high prices the farmers could barely afford if at all. The Eastern banking conglomerates were especially powerful due to their ability to call in debts and repossess homes of the farmers. The picture in The Farmer’s Voice, a Chicago newspaper from the late 1880s, depicts...
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