Agriculture subsidies in the US began with the Nixon administration in the 1970s. Earl Butz was the Agriculture Secretary under Nixon. Earl Butz is credited with inventing food subsidies. Michael Pollan writes brilliantly on the subject, and his books are well recommended. Interestingly, Roosevelt also had a much more sane approach to helping farmers in the 1930s with his New Deal. This was abandoned in the 70s in favor of the subsidies program.
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