In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt formed the Country Life Commission to address contemporary concerns over the state of rural America. One of the issues that commissioners planned to address provoked an internal impasse: the relationship of immigration to agriculture. Charles S. Barrett, president of the Farmers Educational and Co-operative Union, insisted upon removing a section of the commission's report that raised the possibility of settling immigrants in rural areas. His organization was actively pursuing political partnership with the American Federation of Labor. Barrett forced fellow commissioners to confront the existence of a rift between small farmers and organized labor on the one hand, and large agricultural and business interests on the other. The commission's encounter with immigration is emblematic of its general hesitancy to address issues arising from economic divisions.

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