Spotty rain and temperatures in the high 90s throughout much of the summer, plus a stretch of 100-degree days, had the cotton crop in Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina hurting. Producers surveyed on a recent Cotton Incorporated tour said they were expecting lower yields due to the dry weather.

“We've lost a lot of bolls in the last few weeks,” said Reggie Strickland, who farms 1,825 acres of cotton in Mt. Olive, N.C. “We've got some who will pick 800 pounds per acre and we've got some just 3 miles down the road that won't pick 100 pounds. You hear about spotty rains, but it's showing up this year.”

In North Carolina, drought has reduced yield expectations to an average of 738 pounds per acre. That's 93 pounds less than the record set last year. North Carolina expects to produce 1.5 million bales of cotton, 10 percent less than last year's record, according to the North Carolina Ag Statistics Service Aug. 12 report.

Overall, U.S. cotton production is forecast at 18.4 million bales, down 9 percent from the record high set last year.

Strickland was a part of a large group of producers and ginners from the Virginia-Carolina area and the Mid-South touring the world headquarters of Cotton Inc. in Cary, N.C.

Other producers echoed the weather-related sentiments.

“We're on the dry side — moisture has been spotty,” said Lance Everett, who farms with his son, Chris, in Old Hickory, Va. Everett sits on the Cotton Inc. board. “We've had two inches of rain on half the acreage, while the other half is suffering.” He's hoping for statewide yields of 650 pounds to 700 pounds per acre, but that might be a little optimistic. “Some places may be way under a bale.” He grows 950 acres of cotton.

“It doesn't look real good,” Tommy Flythe of Seaboard, N.C. said. His 1,900-acre crop got off to an excellent start, but faltered due to the lack of rain. “It turned dry in June.”

Flythe says too many days close to 100 degrees make it likely for yields to stay around a bale to the acre, if he's lucky. “We've probably average close to 400 pounds per acre.” In a normal year, Flythe averages around 800 pounds per acre.