Mexican rancher Isidro Gutierrez watched with disgust as federal inspectors chalked a long stripe on his steer's hindquarter. The animal could not be imported because its breed can be vulnerable to disease.

If inspections were still being done across the Rio Grande in Mexico, routine rejections like that would be just an inconvenience. But drug violence in the border region has chased American cattle inspectors back to the U.S. side, so Gutierrez has to pay brokers in both countries and hire a truck to take back rejected animals.

"It's cheaper to kill him here," Gutierrez said.

The drug violence along the U.S. and Mexico border is now spilling into the region's agriculture, threatening the safety of ranchers and farmers, slowing down what was expected to be the best harvest in years, and raising the risk that some crops will rot in the fields.

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