> on May 23, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Senate Democrats hope to pass a five-year farm bill this week and bolster their appeal with rural voters, who they see as crucial to retaining their majority in 2014.

Democrats have stepped up their outreach to rural constituencies this year as they head into a daunting midterm election year with a slew of seats in conservative-leaning rural states to defend.

The quest to keep their Senate majority became more complicated Monday with the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is expected to appoint a Republican, which means Democrats will likely have to battle a GOP incumbent to regain the seat.