What were the factors that prompted the rise of the farmers' movement in the late nineteenth century?

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In the second half of the nineteenth century, farmers in the US faced significant challenges as prices for their goods dropped, foreign competition picked up, tariffs restricted their purchases, and railroads and other corporations exploited them. Let's look at some of these factors that eventually prompted farmers to organize for their own protection and prosperity.

After the Civil War, many people moved west to take advantage of the Homestead Act and begin farming their own land. As more and more farmers produced more and more crops, though, the market became glutted. This overproduction drove prices down and farmers into debt, and there was no way to regulate production. This is why farmers needed to start working together and organizing.

Further, farmers faced competition from cheaper imports. They could not drop their prices to match, so sometimes, their crops rotted without being purchased. Yet they still needed to survive, and their debt became deeper.

What's more, prices rose on items farmers needed to purchase because high tariffs allowed manufacturers to avoid foreign competition and keep their prices up. Farmers needed tools and supplies that they had a hard time purchasing. Inflation affected farmers, too, for their money just wouldn't buy as much of anything as they really needed.

Finally, farmers faced challenges from railroads and other corporations that were set on making profits and keeping the "little guy" firmly in his place. Railroads expanded through the countryside, sometimes demanding farmers' lands for their new lines, and shipping companies charged exorbitant rates to farmers trying to get their goods to market. Corporate-style, big-business farms grew more crops for less money than small farmers as well, and they priced small farmers right out of the market.

Indeed, with all these challenges, farmers quickly discovered that they needed to band together if they were going to survive.

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