America’s farmers had long been making political trouble for Wall Street and Washington; in the words of historian Walter Karp, “since the Civil War at least, the most unruly, the most independent, the most republican of American citizens have been the small farmers.” Beginning with the populist revolt of the 1890’s, farmers had made common cause with the labor movement, working together to check the power of corporations. Rising agricultural productivity handed a golden opportunity to the farmers’ traditional adversaries. Since a smaller number of farmers could now feed America, the moment had come to “rationalize” agriculture by letting the market force prices down and farmers off the land. So Wall Street and Washington sought changes in farm policies that would loose “a plague of cheap corn” on the nation, the effects of which are all around us-indeed, in us.
— Michael Pollan, The Omnivores Dilemma