Fearing The Worst

Smoke and flame cover a wide area as a wildfire that has consumed thousands of acres continues to burn near Avalon on Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California Friday, May 11, 2007. A wind-driven wildfire threatened Santa Catalina Island's main city and residents and visitors were urged to leave the resort isle more than 20 miles off the Southern California coast.
AP Photo/Reed Saxon
Like everything else in Texas, ranching is big, with nearly 14 million cattle across the state. Long-time rancher Jim Link says watching England's livestock go up in smoke has fueled concerns that foot-and-mouth disease will find its way here.

"I'm pretty concerned," Link said. "If it gets on your place, you're in trouble. Your animals are going to be slaughtered and there's no way out of that."

Last fall, officials in Texas constructed a hypothetical model in an effort to predict what would happen if foot-and-mouth broke out in the state. The results: a devastating impact that could wipe out their $18.5 billion a year industry, CBS News Correspondent Maureen Maher reports.

"You're talking about people going out of business, packing up their bags and filing for bankruptcy and going and doing something else," said Rob Hosford of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

The study's scenario started at the border in Brownsville, with contaminated food scraps arriving on a foreign ship. A truck hauls them north where a farmer feeds the meat to his pigs. The swine get sick, but some have already been sold. Infected livestock pop up as far away as Dallas County.

Meantime, the truck carrying the infected meat has crisscrossed the country.

The cost for clean-up? Fifty million dollars for just one county, according to one of the study's authors.

"It's been commonly said that it's not a matter of if it's going to come, but when," said researcher Dan Coates.

For Jim Link, foot-and-mouth used to be a tall tale about an unstoppable virus his grandfather told him had hit Texas back in the 1920s.

"This one requires the animals be destroyed, and that's pretty devastating, economically and emotionally," Link said.

Now, he is afraid he may soon have his own horror story to tell.