The Farmer's Last Frontier: Agriculture, 1860-1897

By Fred A. Shannon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
The Agrarian Uprising

THE ENIGMA OF FARM PRICES

THE preceding pages have been replete with references to agricultural distress: cotton that, according to individual testimony, cost six or seven cents a pound to produce, selling at four or five cents, fifty-cent wheat going at hardly half that price, and the like.1 This was not a constant condition, but it so persisted and recurred that, for much of the three decades before 1897, large portions of the farming population had no financial security, and tenancy was usually on the increase. The individual with an orderly mind would, no doubt, like to see the farmers' balance sheet for these decades drawn up in neat columns and graphs. These should reveal actual costs of production, prices and total receipts for produce sold, and the cost and amount of goods purchased. It would be gratifying, also, to scan accurate data on the total amounts of long, short, and intermediate farm credits, as well as interest rates, by state, geographic section, or area of crop specialization.

Unfortunately, for the meticulous student, no collected data exist for most of these factors. America's rural grandsires were not bookkeepers, and no federal or state agencies wrested the information from them. The best that can be done, even for the prices of farm products before 1908, is to take the federal government reports For December 1 of each year.2 These reflect what the goods

____________________
1
[U.S.] Industrial Commission, Final Report ( Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900- 1902), XIX, 142.
2
George F[rederick] Warren, "Prices of Farm Products in the United States", U. S. Department of Agriculture, Department Bulletin No. 999 ( Washington: Government Printing Office, 1921), p. 66.

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