The U.S. cotton industry has taken a few hits from acreage decline, volatile markets, competing crops and strange weather in recent years, but for producers and others surveyed at the Beltwide Cotton Conference in New Orleans, it’s all about staying positive.

For those in the Southwest, optimism is not whether the rain gauge is half-empty or half-full, as long as it’s not full of dust.

“No. 1 on everybody’s mind is the long-term drought,” said Danny Davis, a cotton producer from Elk City, Okla., and 2001 High Cotton Award winner. “We were very blessed to get some rain in July and August and end up with 600 pound to 650 pounds for dryland cotton this year. If we would have had one more rain in September, we might have had a lot of 2-bale, dryland this year. It was a perfect year for cotton other than it was short on moisture.”

The two previous years of drought weren’t so generous, Davis noted. In fact, 2011 was complete disaster, marking the first time in four generations the Davis family farm “didn’t take a bale of cotton to town. It wasn’t a lot better than that in 2012. We harvested about a fourth of the cotton we planted. This year, we harvested every row.”

If the drought continues to negatively impact the Southwest, Davis is concerned about the potential loss of cotton infrastructure through mergers and buyouts. “We have to travel longer to get parts. It’s not that it’s good or bad, but it is decreasing our efficiencies.

“There’s not a lot I can do about the water. Every time I sit down to have a meal, we pray for a rain. We know the Good Lord will take care of us. That was very obvious this year, and I can’t explain it in any other way.”