The economic depression of the 1890s was nothing short of disastrous for American farmers. To some extent, it represented the culmination of many years of persistent problems, problems that the political classes had shown no inclination to solve.
The most serious problem that farmers had to face was low crop prices. Crop prices had been low for a number of years, but in the 1890s, they collapsed dramatically, bringing severe financial hardship to vast swathes of rural America.
As farmers were unable to earn as much from their crops, they quickly fell into serious financial difficulties. This meant, among other things, that they couldn't afford to pay back the loans that they'd borrowed from banks and other financial institutions.
Many small farms were mortgaged to the hilt, and when farmers struggled to pay off their mortgages, they found themselves having their farms foreclosed. Bankruptcies mushroomed as farmers, many of whose families had tilled the same soil for centuries, ended up being thrown off their land.
The justifiable anger felt by American farmers gave rise to the Popular Party, which campaigned for farmer-friendly policies such as bimetallism, an economic policy that called for the expansion of the money supply using silver alongside gold. The Popular Party also ranged itself against Wall Street, accusing America's large financial institutions of making money off the exploitation of farmers.
In the event, however, the Populists were unable to make serious inroads into the established two-party system at a national level. In the meantime, the plight of farmers worsened, exacerbated by appalling weather conditions, which inevitably led to bad harvests.