Foot and mouth disease, according to Wilkinson, president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, could decimate the US cattle industry, according to Fox News.
Border policies implemented by the Biden administration have resulted in a massive influx of illegal immigrants, and ranchers are increasingly concerned that they will bring with them a highly contagious virus that could cost billions of dollars and decimate the livestock industry.
Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly contagious virus that affects cows, pigs, sheep, and other animals with cloven hooves.
Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota rancher who also serves as president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), told Fox News Digital that FMD will cross the border soon.
"Our border is just so porous, if that disease comes in, it’s just going to devastate the industry. And frankly, I don’t know how it’s been kept out to this point," Wilkinson said.
FMD affects 77% of the world's livestock population, primarily in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as parts of South America. Since 1929, the United States has been free of FMD.
According to Customs and Border Protection, there are an average of 6,858 migrant encounters at the border every day, and Wilkinson predicted that this is where FMD could enter the United States.
"It can come in, certainly, with animals. It can also come in on a meat product. So there’s a number of ways it’s going to come in. But the most likely way it’s going to come in is some manure on the bottom of somebody’s boot," he said.
According to the BBC, an FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001 resulted in the slaughter of more than 6 million pigs, cows, and sheep.
This outbreak cost the economy between $12 billion and $18 billion. In the United States, containing an outbreak in California could cost $6 billion to $14 billion.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the economic impact of a nationwide agroterrorism attack could reach $228 billion.
If FMD is found in the United States, there is a mandatory 72-hour halt to all cattle movement, according to Wilkinson, but the halt could last up to a week.
"Just think of that — no cattle moving anywhere in the country, or going in and out of the country, for up to a week… you’re going to see the beef industry just decimated," he said.
Wilkinson warned ranchers at the NCBA's annual convention that "a lot of us are going to lose our livelihood" if the disease spreads to the country's livestock.
Loren Patterson and Alisa Ogden are on the front lines of the border crisis. Both ranchers from New Mexico, they shared Wilkinson's concern about the virus spreading to the United States.