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'$60,000 is the cost that I bear': Jim Chilton has extra costs due to his ranch sharing a border

Posted at 5:28 PM, Apr 22, 2024

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN) — Jim Chilton and his wife Sue have owned a ranch that shares a boundary with the U.S.- Mexico border since 1987, and are seeing a spike in their expenses.

He says their location is costing them more money due to people and cows crossing through his property after crossing the border.

"The rebar cost me $2,000," Chilton said of a metal pipe he added to the barrier on his property to limit access for cows and people from crossing.

The fifth generation rancher says, over the last few years, he's spending more money to keep his ranch safe and operational than in the past.

"Easily $60,000 is the cost that I bear, that I wouldn't have to bear if the ranch was 100 miles north of here," Chilton said.

He says the $60,000 he spent in 2023 includes repairs to water lines and fences and labor costs, so his cowboys feel safe near the border.

"The main cost is the cost of sending two people out to do a job rather than one," Chilton said. “With the cartel being so active and the cowboys themselves being concerned, we send two people to do what one person was going to be able to do.”

Trash is also common sight, with the likes of empty bottle of liquids, cans of beans, medicine wrappers and clothes left behind as people pass through. Chilton says the increased volume of litter is bad for business, since he's lost several cows.

"Some of our cows will actually go and eat on the plastic bags and it will stuff up their digestive system and they have a slow, ugly, nasty death," Chilton said.

He says he loses four to five cows a year this way but that doesn't stop him from continuing his family's tradition of cattle ranching.