Technology, government policies, and economic conditions, effectively declined agriculture due to overproduction and deflation, poor representation of farmers in the government, and high costs forced upon farmers. During this time, technology was booming in America. New inventions and machinery that made life simpler for many farmers had come about. Availability of new technology, led to farmers investing in heavy machinery that resulted in mass production of crops, like shown in Document D.
Other technological advancements included were the introduction of railroads.Railroads were breading across the continent, giving farmers new opportunities to sell their products to other markets in the East. Soon refrigerated railroad carts came, that made transporting fresh fruits and vegetables to the East possible. Document B shows how the number of railroads increased during the time period 1870-1890. As railroads expanded, so did cattle ranching. In Document F it states, “An establishment in Chicago which combines the operations of ‘shipping’ and of ‘canning’ beef has a slaughtering capacity of 400,000 head annually.When we add to this the requirements of other similar although miller concerns, and the large number shipped eastward on the hoof, we have a grand total of not far from head marketed in the city of Chicago alone,” explains how the shipping of beef had widely spread through the country.
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More cattle markets opened up in cities such as Kansas City and Chicago because of the expansion of railroads. Technological advances led to changes in cattle ranching that led to industrial growth. Although it seems as if fame’s would benefit from all these innovations and new opportunities available to them, the opposite happened.With the expansion of the railroad, only railroad companies made a profit with high freight rates that made it almost impossible for farmers to ship their products. While with improved farm machinery, irrigation, and chemical fertilizers at hand, production massively increased (Document A). Document A displays how as production increased through the years from 1865-1900, prices fell and deflation happened. In 1870, 254 million of bushels of wheat were produced and were sold at 1.
04 per bushel, while in 1875 each bushel was sold at 1. 1 with 314 million Of bushels Of wheat were produced. Soon American agriculture was ender a great deal of economic stress due to overproduction and the deflation that resulted from overproduction. Consequently, with high freight rates over their head, overproduction, and high costs of equipment farmers made a mere profit resulting in the decline of agriculture. Economically, dropping prices of agricultural products would lead farmers into debt which led to the system of sharecropping and crop-lien system.Falling prices had an even more impact on farmers who were already under a great amount of debt that accumulated from costs of machinery and supplies. In a contract in North Carolina from 1882, it states, “The sale of every croppers part of the cotton to be made by me when and where I choose to sell, and after deducting all they owe me and all sums that I may be responsible for on their accounts, to pay them their half of the net proceeds.
” (Document E). This illustrates how landowners controlled sharecropping contracts and were the ones that made a profit while farmers merely making enough to even cover their expenses.This resulted in increasing poverty in the South. Other than overproduction, another economic issue that drastically effected farmers was he Panic of 1893 that left millions of Americans unemployed, hungry, and homeless. In Susan Recruit’s ‘deter to Lorenz D. Leniency she states, “l had the prettiest garden that you ever seen and the hail ruined it and I have nothing to look at my husband went a way to find work and came home last night and told me that would have to Starve he has bin in ten county and did not get no work. ” (Document H).
Economic conditions such as overproduction, the Panic of 1893, and sharecropping systems that developed from it only led to the downfall of farmers. The booming industry also changed agriculture by creating monopolies where they only gained abstaining wealth leaving farmers with nothing. This shows how government policies usually favored policies that supported large corporations consequently leaving farmers to suffer. For example the expansion of railroads would not have been possible without huge subsidies and land grants from the government.The pacific Railroad Way Act of 1 862 may have contributed the most to the expansion of railroads, as the act had provided huge land grants and subsidies to help build railroads. As mentioned earlier with the invention of the railroad came the invention of shipping costs which farmers were very dissatisfied with. To explain further, it states in the Prairie Farmer of 1 877, “Some time ago they carried a law through the Illinois legislature, which provides for the limiting of freight rates by a board of officials appointed for this purpose.
The railroads, of course opposed this, and it was carried to the United States Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. ” (Document C) These laws were called Granger Laws that established the maximum railroads and grain elevators could charge. These laws were upheld in the case Menu vs.. Illinois, but were soon overturned in the Wabash vs.. Illinois case establishing that interference in interstate amerce was unconstitutional.
Following this, the government established an Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). Even with the ICC the farmers cries against the unjust high freight rates went unheard.Farmers grew discontent because of this and serious economic conditions. They claimed that not all of their problems were because of themselves, but rather the government. This is evident in Mary Elizabeth speech where she states, “The parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us. We were told two years ago to go to work and raise a big crop that was all we needed..
… We raised the gig crop, and what came of it? Eight-cent corn. Ten-cent oats. ” (Document G) Farmers were discontent and tired of political parties misleading them.They were told to raise big crops, and then were told that they suffered from overproduction.
In Mary Elizabeth Lease’s speech she also states, “1 0,000 children, so statistics tell us, starve to death every year in the united States. ” (Document G). This illustrates how little the government does to bring change while its policies resolve nothing. Due to such economic grievances not being solved and being poorly represented, farmers formed their own political arties that envisioned a government that assisted and listened to the farmers rather than big corporations.These groups were called the Populist Party and the Omaha Platform who envisioned a new government’s role with respect to farmers’ problems. For example the populist party and Omaha Platform advocated for unlimited coinage of silver. To further expand on this, in an excerpt from a speech by William Jennings Bryan it states, “You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard.
I tell you that the great cities rest upon these broad and fertile prairies. ” This not only presents the difference of interests between rural and urban societies but also what farmers wanted.Farmers who believed that an expanded currency would lead to inflation and high prices of crops supported the free and unlimited coinage of silver. Others might argue that the changes in agriculture during this time period actually helped farmers progress further. They would reason this with advancements that made farming life easier and an expanded national market with railroads spreading across the nation. While it seemed like a blessing at the time with all these new advancements, It had opposite effects.