The Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 repudiated the creed of laissez-faire by declaring that government had a responsibility to assist ordinary citizens economically. Farmers had made affordable credit a political issue well before the Panic of 1907 thrust banking reform to the center of national policy discussions. Following this crisis, farmers called for the national government to make agricultural loans. Farmers’ advocacy—which was often channeled through their voluntary membership organizations—both compelled legislative action on agricultural credit and ensured a governmental role in the Federal Farm Loan System. Progressive Era farmers had succeeded in institutionalizing an idea that bankers opposed and the political elite otherwise never would have considered. The full consequences of this innovation in governance were unanticipated. The Federal Farm Loan System provided a precedent for subsequent New Deal programs that aided ordinary Americans.

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