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Why the Farmers Were Wrong The period between 1880 and 1900 was a boom timefor American politics The country was for once free of the threat of warand many of its citizens were living comfortably However as these two decadeswent by the American farmer found it harder and harder to live comfortablyCrops such as cotton and wheat once the bulwark of agriculture were sellingat prices so low that it was nearly impossible for farmers to make a profitoff them Furthermore improvement in transportation allowed foreign competitionto materialize making it harder for American farmers to dispose of surpluscrop Finally years of drought in the midwest and the downward spiral ofbusiness in the 1890s devastated many of the nations farmers As a resultof the agricultural depression many farm groups most notably the PopulistParty arose to fight what farmers saw as the reasons for the decline inagriculture During the last twenty years of the nineteenth century manyfarmers in the United States saw monopolies and trusts railroads and moneyshortages and the demonetization of silver as threats to their way of lifethough in many cases their complaints were not validThe growth of the railroad was one of the most significant elements in Americaneconomic growth However in many ways the railroads hurt small shippersand farmers Extreme competition between rail companies necessitated someway to win business To do this many railroads offered rebates and drawbacksto larger shippers who used their rails However this practice hurt smallershippers including farmers for often times railroad companies would chargemore to ship products short distances than they would for long trips Therail companies justified this practice by asserting that if they did notrebate they would not make enough profit to stay in business In his testimonyto the Senate Cullom Committee George W Parker stated the operatingexpense of this roadrequires a certain volume of business to meet thesefixed expensesin some seasons of the year the local business of theroadis not sufficient to make the earningswhen we make up
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