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Congress passed the last omnibus farm bill in 2008 — the 10th in a series of roughly five-year plans dating to 1965. The last “Republican revolution” in Congress in the mid-1990s sparked a drive to fundamentally rewrite the federal system, with a “Freedom to Farm” law designed to wean farmers off government subsidies and price supports.

But much of the reform was rolled back in the 2002 and 2008 farm bills. The $288 billion bill in 2008 increased farm-subsidy payments even in a time of record profits for U.S. growers.

The upcoming farm debate could very well prove a flash point within the expanded GOP caucus. An Associated Press survey late last year found that the families of a number of prominent GOP members, including outspoken conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and such high-profile freshman as South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem and Tennessee’s Rep. Stephen Fincher, have received federal crop-subsidy payments in the past.

A survey by the Center for Responsive Politics found that agriculture and agribusiness lobbies have historically favored Republicans in political donations, giving 62 percent of their contributions to GOP candidates in the 2007-2008 cycle.

But the list of House Republicans who voted against the 2008 farm bill includes new Speaker John A. Boehner, new Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, new House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California and new Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer that year, also opposed the bill.

Mr. Boehner criticized the measure at the time as a prime example of misguided Washington spending.

“The farm bill has often been abused by politicians as a slush fund for bizarre earmarks and wasteful spending projects, and the latest version … is no different,” Mr. Boehner, then the GOP minority leader, said at the time.

The authorization of the new farm bill will also be led by a new team of lawmakers in both houses of Congress. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, the No. 1 recipient of agriculture lobby contributions in the 2009-2010 cycle according to the Center for Responsive Politics, lost in November and her gavel now goes to fellow Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Mr. Lucas takes over from Democratic Rep. Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, but the turnover is even more extensive. Some 13 Democratic congressmen who sat on the panel either lost in November or did not seek re-election. Fewer than a quarter of the House Agriculture Committee’s members this year have worked on more than one farm bill reauthorization battle.

Another issue on the farm agenda is whether Washington will continue support for the production of ethanol fuel. President Obama extended tax credits for ethanol and biodiesel on Dec. 17 when he signed into law the $858 billion compromise tax legislation Congress passed during the lame-duck session.

However, the future of cellulosic ethanol — made from corn cobs and other crop waste — largely depends on tax credits and grants up for reauthorization in the next farm bill.

One of the biggest supporter of ethanol among Republicans is Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley, who argues it is key to ending U.S. dependency on foreign oil.

Mr. Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, succeeded in keeping the tax credits and a tariff on ethanol in the recent tax bill. However, he has sounded less optimistic about such support for the fledgling industry beyond 2011.

“For next year, we’re all kind of committed to taking a new approach and the phasing out of the tax credits,” he told Agriculture News, a trade publication. He said he would expect the credits for the “maturing industry” to be phased out over the next five to 10 years.