One of their biggest concerns was to eliminate the crop-lien system that developed in the United States. Farmers and sharecroppers who tended to crops, but did not own the land, were on a credit system for food and supplies from local merchants. These merchants placed a lien on the crops so that when harvested and sold, the merchants and land-owners were paid first, and the farmers were given what was left over. Due to the ever-changing price in cotton, it was not uncommon for farmers to not be paid at all by the end of the season.
The National Farmers' Alliance was also in support of government regulating the transportation industry, as railroad owners placed ridiculously high tax on the movement of goods throughout the country. While the development of the railroads was a benefit to farmers, the outrageous price of transporting goods often left farmers in debt and unable to provide the goods being demanded. Along with these desires, the National Farmers' Alliance supported reforms in both currency and income tax policies.
Another demand made by the Alliance was known as the Sub-Treasury Plan in which a system of warehouses, funded by the government, would be established in order for participating farmers to have access to the materials they needed at a low cost. Part of this plan involved farmers' being able to take out low-interest loans and pay back the government with U.S. Treasury notes. When the Democratic party refused to endorse this demand, the National Farmers' Alliance created their own political party, known as the People's Party.
In December 1890, the National Farmers’ Alliance gathered
at the Marion Opera House in Ocala, Florida. Originally to be held in Jacksonville, the costly meeting was attended by 88 delegates and over 100 guests. Robert Rogers, president of the Alliance during the time, contacted John Dunn, president of a major bank in Ocala, and asked if he would be willing to host the meeting. Dunn agreed, contributed to the cost of the meeting, and landed Ocala on the map historically. During these meetings, a group of delegates, including John Rankin
Rogers and Marion Butler (elected Populist officials), adopted the “Ocala
Demands.” This set of political and
economic reforms outlined the agenda for the People’s Party.
Although short lived, the Populists started a movement in rural areas, bringing awareness to the other parties and a voice to many poor farmers who had been struggling after the War. Eventually, the Democratic party adopted many of the beliefs of the People's Party and the organization ceased to exist as a national political party by the start of the 20th century.