Not all people and businesses shared in the prosperity of the 1920’s. The worst of the effected was the agricultural industry. There are many reasons as to why agriculture did not share in the boom of the such as falling demand, World War 1, overproduction and increased competition. All of these link together to explain the reasons why agriculture did not share in the boom.
At the end of World War 1, America had exported a great deal of it’s resources such as wheat, to Europe.
Now that the war had ended, Europe was left poor and could not afford much of this trade anymore as the prices were too high. They had become America’s main market so this loss of market meant that the businesses selling their resources to Europe lost profit. The Republican leaders had also introduced import tariffs to supposedly protect the American industries but in the case of agriculture they didn’t. The tariffs meant that prices became even higher for America’s main market and seeing as it was Europe, they destroyed the chance of further agricultural exports to other countries.
In response to the import tariffs that America had placed on their goods, other countries such as Britain and France who had previously been America’s main market, applied their own tariffs which meant that America’s exports fell aswell which also meant that the agricultural businesses lost profit.
Countries such as Canada saw the trouble America had gotten into with the tariffs, and saw a major business opportunity.
They lowered the prices of their produce that was being sold to Europe. This made Europe buy even less from America and more from places like Canada. The smaller businesses were the worst effected as they were financially dependant on their exports and the demand that their product was in. The tariffs and competition completely desecrated their business concerning exports to outside of America but within America, they would have problems selling their produce too.
During the 1920’s, America’s population was falling which meant that there were fewer mouths to feed. The overproduction of products such as wheat that was caused by new technology (better machinery such as the combine harvester) meant that there was a surplus amount of product that nobody wanted. People weren’t buying as much because of the lack of people and also because the new ‘Roaring Twenties’ lifestyle was very luxurious and many people now demanded meats and vegetables. The farmers of the ‘luxury’ products of course did not suffer as badly in fact some prospered. For example, the shipping of lettuce went up by 38,000 crates between 1920 and 1928. The surplus amounts of the other products such as wheat also lowered the value of the product so that even if the Americans were buying alot of the product, the business would not profit as much as they previously had done when demand was higher.
Wheat farmers suffered particularly badly because they had all the reasons why agriculture did not boom in the 1920’s to deal with at once. Another to add to the list was prohibition. The prohibition law introduced meant that the brewing of alcohol such as whiskey was forbidden so it became illegal for wheat farmers to sell their produce for even that reason. This meant that even further business deals and market was cut off. It was not only foodstuffs in the agriculture industry that suffered though.
Cotton had been a large industry up until the 1920’s with a large employment scale and large business deals to manufacturing/material companies. The new technological advances (from the war when many chemical advances were made) meant that synthetic fibres which were more hardwearing than cotton were introduced to the market. This didn’t just effect the prices of cotton but the wages aswell. People were employed to pick the natural fibres and because the business lost profit, wages were cut. The worst effected of these was maize where the price for a bushel went from 45 pence to 10 pence.
All of these reasons explain how agriculture did not share in the boom of the 1920’s and I think that overproduction is probably the factor that had the largest restricting and devastating effect on agriculture because if it had not happened, the businesses and small farmers would not have been effected so greatly. It wouldn’t have lowered the prices even further as it did which was not needed at all because of all the other factors that have been explained and the businesses would possibly have suffered less greatly. All the reasons mentioned though were needed to have such a large scale effect on the agricultural industry during such a prospering time in America’s history.
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