Tucked deep in the 1,198-page House agriculture policy legislation is an initiative to guarantee prices for sushi rice. So too is insurance for alfalfa and a marketing plan for Christmas trees.



Catfish farmers also get a morsel in the proposal being taken up this week: profit-margin insurance. The products represent a tiny fraction of the $440 billion U.S. farm economy. Yet each is slated to receive special treatment — either through subsidized insurance, promotional programs or protections against imports — in the bill that carries an estimated 10-year price tag of $939 billion.

“We’re in a golden age of agriculture,” with producer profits projected at a record $128.2 billion this year, Vince Smith, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University, said at a briefing on Capitol Hill last week. The House bill “is about as bad a bill as I could think of writing as an economist,” he said.

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