From the barley fields of ancient Israel to the parables of Jesus, God's concern for the livelihoods of and challenges experienced by farmers is evident. Today, the almost 3 billion people in farming families around the world are faced with an often-devastating economic landscape; half of the world's hungry people are smallholder farmers. Many farmers in the U.S. are struggling as well.
A big part of the problem for farmers in the global South is that trade agreements have cut poor countries' ability to protect their farmers with tariffs and other measures. These agreements have also helped foster a model in which monoculture crops are produced by a petroleum- and pesticide-intensive process, then shipped long distances. This cuts the market price of crops while racking up high costs to biodiversity, to the environment, to local food security, and to communities.
While a few large farms in the global South may benefit from adopting the export-driven model, most small farmers overseas are often unable to compete; many are forced to join the ranks of the urban poor. Farmers in the U.S. also feel a financial squeeze, as they are forced to adopt the agribusiness model in order to produce at the market price, and therefore must buy pesticide-resistant or other (often genetically modified) seeds and raw materials at "company store" prices.