Traditional farm programs have served cotton — and other commodities — well over the decades.

But the National Cotton Council says the new federal budget realities mean it may be time for a change.

In a series of meetings over the last month, Cotton Council leaders and staff have been working on a new direction for the cotton program that would incorporate “an affordable, revenue-based crop insurance program” in place of the current payment-based farm bill provisions.

In a statement released last week, the NCC said it believes the combination of the decades-old marketing loan, Direct Payments and Counter-cyclical Payments as structured in the 2008 farm bill has served the cotton industry well and, in recent years, has required minimal federal outlays.

“However, it is clear that future deficit reduction efforts will place unprecedented pressure on the existing structure,” the NCC said. “The Budget Control Act reinforces the severe funding constraints facing not only U.S. cotton, but all of agriculture.”

The Budget Control Act is the legislation passed on Aug. 2 and signed by President Obama that sets a goal of reducing federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. The legislation creates a Joint Select Committee or “Super Committee” that is charged with submitting budget reduction recommendations by Dec. 2.

If the committee fails to reach all of the Budget Control Act’s goal, Congress must begin the process of sequestration or across-the-board budget cuts that reach the reduction targets beginning in January, 2012.

“Deficit reduction will lower the baseline funds available to upland cotton, and simply downsizing the current program structure would likely undermine the effectiveness of the programs to the extent that alternatives must be evaluated to ensure growers have access to the most effective safety net,” the Council statement said.

Besides dealing with the prospects for sharply reduced funding, it noted, the cotton industry faces another unique challenge in that it must continue to work with Congress and the administration to resolve the WTO case Brazil brought against the U.S. cotton program.