and Urban Reformers
A fter the Civil War farmers writhed in economic dis tress. In debt as participants in the agricultural expansion described in Chapter 11, they watched wheat prices fluctuate from one dollar per bushel in 1870 to forty-three cents per bushel in 1890, and corn prices range from forty-five cents per bushel in 1870 to twenty cents per bushel in 1890. Government policies that forced the value of money upward by recalling paper money and ending the coinage of silver, and banking policies that increased interest rates worsened the farmers' plight. Farmers thus struggled to pay debts with deflated dollars and declining prices for their crops.
In addition, they faced the forces of consolidation described by Lawrence Goodwyn in The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America:
Everywhere the farmer turned he seemed to be the victim of rules that
somehow always worked to the advantage of the biggest business and
financial concerns that touched his world. To be efficient, the farmer
had to have tools and livestock that cost him forbidding rates of inter-
est. When he sold, he got the price offered by terminal grain elevator
companies. To get his produce there, he paid high rates of freight. If he
tried to sell to different grain dealers, or elevator companies, or live-
stock commission agents, he often encountered the practical evidence
of secret agreements between agricultural middlemen and trunk line
railroads. The Northern Pacific named specific grain terminals to
which farmers should ship, the trunk line simply refusing to provide
railroad cars for the uncooperative.