The $9 billion in annual federal crop insurance subsidies could be an easy target for the fiscal cliff deal and have some rural Republican lawmakers worried and shopping around for a late compromise on a farm bill to protect them.

The chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture committees already were set to make a sizable contribution to deficit reduction through a new farm bill. There were $2.3 billion in annual cuts to other farm programs and food stamps in a Senate-passed version and $3.5 billion in annual cuts in a measure awaiting House action.

But they hit an impasse this past week while trying to merge the bills into a single package. It’s the same problem confronting President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who so far are unable to come up with an alternative to the broad wave of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that begin to hit in the new year.