Overall, Georgia's 2004 cotton quality was good, especially in color and strength, says Steve Brown, a cotton agronomist with the University of Georgia (UGA). But the state's cotton crop still fell short in one important grading category — uniformity, the length and consistency of the fiber.

Since 1999, textile mills have complained that Georgia's cotton doesn't run well through newer, high-speed mills. It was reported last year that some mills will stop buying the cotton as a result.

“There's a perception out there that Georgia cotton will perform worse in the mills than other cotton,” says South Bryan, who buys cotton for Avondale Mills.

Avondale hasn't run enough of Georgia's 2004 crop through its mills to know how it will perform, Bryan says. But if it runs poorly, Georgia's stigma for poor cotton will only get worse.