Poke, prod, maybe even posture; but beyond that, legislators often find farm subsidies a topic best left alone. Incoming Republican lawmakers ran on campaign promises with hefty assurances of deficit cuts and reduced spending. Political rhetoric may give way to political expediency very soon: Congress is close to beginning work on the next farm bill.

Many Republicans who swept rural Democrats from office are now confronting the reality of a promise to reduce spending: Should it cover the farm subsidies that have brought money and jobs to their districts — and directly benefited some GOP lawmakers or their families?

At least 13 Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee lost on Nov. 2, and most of then helped steer generous farm support back home. Many of their replacements avoided the issue of farm payments during the campaign as they focused on broader themes of lowering federal spending and changing Washington.

They'll have to face it soon enough. Congress is expected to begin work on the next five-year farm bill before the 2012 election.

To read more about the staying power of farm subsidies, please see the following AP article.