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Americans have celebrated the Fourth of July as the day the 13 original colonies separated from England and declared their independence in 1776.  But did you know that farmers celebrate the Fourth of July for an entirely different reason?

In America’s early days the west was still new territory and largely used as vast agricultural land. The creation of the train permitted farmers to be less self-sufficient, thus, leading to the rise of transported goods. Unfortunately,  Railroad monopolies discovered their unique business partnership and exploited farmers who wished to ship their goods to the east. The railroad moguls increased the shipping rates on farmers, which made earning a living difficult.

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Oliver Hudson Kelly was an innovator who wanted to create a group of farmers to discuss agricultural practices and growing styles in an effort to collaborate on more efficient growing methods. However, new practices weren’t the only thing he learned at meetings. Oliver formed an alliance with like-minded farmers who shared their views of the monopolistic railway system. Thus, in 1867, the Grangers were born. These small town farmers had no choice but to concede to the high prices of the railway system and cut their profits, but not without a fight.

Illinois was the first state to pass an act that would charge, “just, reasonable, and uniform rates” in 1869. Despite the new act, enforcement was a problem thus leading to the evolution of a constitution which set a maximum freight rate, but again the railroads refused to comply.

In spite of the new constitution, the Grangers created the “Farmers Declaration of Independence” on July 4, 1873. This declaration cited the Grangers objections and their pledge to resolve them.

Soon after, Munn vs. Illinois was brought to the courts due to the pressure from the Grangers who were in favor of setting and enforcing “maximum rates that private companies could charge for storage and transport of agricultural products.” The case was between the legislature of Illinois and the Chicago grain warehouse firm of Munn and Scott. The judge ruled against Munn stating that because grain facilities were devoted to public use, their rates were subject to public regulation. The Granger movement brought to light the unfortunate influence monopolies have on small groups such as farmers.

So today we celebrate the independence of our country and the independence of our farmers. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

 

 

 

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