Crop lien mechanism was inaugurated in North Carolina in March 1867, once the General Assembly passed an Act to Secure Advances for Agricultural Purposes. Most former Confederate says passed equivalent legislations throughout this time. They were made essential by a post-Civil War cash shortage among both landowning and nonlandowning farmers, who found it tough to purchase provisions for their households. Under the chop lien system, farmers could obtain fertilizer, farming tools, groceries, and also various other goods by giving vendors a lien on their cash crops, the most desirable being cotton and also tobacco. By providing credit until plants were harvested, merchants were permitted to charge greater prices for such purchases-typically adding a markup of 20 to 50 percent, yet in some cases much higher. A fast proliferation of nation stores throughout North Carolina and the South was the result.

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Abprovides in the crop lien system diminished many kind of tenant farmers to a state of financial slaextremely, as their debts to landlords and sellers brought over from one year to the following. Many type of landowners joined the ranks of farm tenants when excessive indebtedness brought about foreclosure. An 1887 report of the state"s Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the crop lien system had prrange "a worse curse to North Carolina than droughts, floods, cyclones, storms, rust, caterpillars, and every other evil that atoften tends the farmer."

North Carolina leaders of the Farmers Union, which flouriburned from 1908 until the end of World War I, sought to abolish the crop lien system. Although inevitably not effective, they were able to view a bill go right into effect in 1918 making it unlawful for sellers to accept even more than 10 percent security above cash prices once items were bought on time.

A quick decrease in farm tenancy after 1940 brought a equivalent decrease in the variety of chop liens, especially those signed over to supply-vendors. Landlords and farm lending organizations still usage crops as debt protection on a constant basis, although under more stringent protective law.


Hugh T. Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome, North Carolina: The History of a Southern State (1973).

Charles P. Loomis, "Activities of the North Carolina Farmers" Union," NCHR 7 (October 1930).

Stuart Noblin, Leonidas LaFayette Polk: Agrarian Crusader (1949).

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Additional Resources:

The Evils of the Crop Lien System, LearnNC:

North Carolina General Assembly, Landlords Lien on Crops for Rent, Advances, etc:

Image Credit:

Near Duck, NC, ca. 1939. From the Farrell Photograph Collection, PhC.9, North Carolina State Archives, call #: PhC9_2_85_36, Raleigh, NC. Available from (accessed September 10, 2012).