COACHELLA, Calif. - Record temperatures and extremely dry conditions continue to plague more than half of the nation. The United States is experiencing its worst drought since the 1950's and it's taking a toll on the agriculture industry. The corn belt in the midwest is one of the hardest hit areas. The United States Department of Agriculture reports the estimated corn yield dropped 12% last week. The pinch has farmers in the desert feeling for their midwest counterparts. "Well I feel pretty bad because they depend on the rains where we have irrigation systems here," said Desert Valley Date owner George Kirkjan.
Despite some of the hottest and most arid conditions in the nation, the Coachella Valley's crops remain untouched thanks to an irrigation system powered by the Colorado River. However, if the drought gets even worse down the road, that could also be affected. "The only reason we're able to grow anything here is because of the mighty Colorado River," said Sam Cobb, a district representative for the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. "If it does not get recharged, we're on dry land."
Cobb doesn't believe the desert's in any danger of the river running out. In fact, the desert's climate gives many farmers a jump start on the rest of the country. The mild winters allow them to harvest crops like grapes and watermelons before anyone in the U.S. "This is the place to be. In the wintertime, the Coachella Valley, Imperial Valley, we become the salad bowl of the country," said Cobb.
When the season's over for leafy vegetables, grapes and watermelons, it's perfect for dates. "Dates need heat, they also need water, but you don't want it to rain during certain times when it's growing," said Kirkjan.
The summer staple thrives on the dry conditions which is why farmers wish away any rain, a far cry from the midwest. Also in stark contrast, the price of dates don't fluctuate often. "They don't go up and down like vegetables do, they'll go up slowly and go down slowly," saisd Kirkjan.
Corn prices peaked this month, the highest they've been in a year with little relief in sight.