Christopher Collins

Christopher Collins is an investigative journalist based in Abilene. The Wichita Falls native graduated from Midwestern State University in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication. He previously has worked as a reporter at the Abilene Reporter-News and the Wichita Falls Times Record News, along with running a freelance reporting business. At the Observer, he writes about rural Texas. He can be reached on Twitter or at [email protected]

By Christopher Collins:



Education

Homelessness in Texas Public Schools is a Suburban and Rural Problem, Too

The state of Texas provides no specific funding for the estimated 113,000 homeless students who attend public schools here.

Gage Kemp was 16 when he and his father were evicted from their home in Allen, a suburb of Dallas, and had to move into a motel. Kemp’s father, who struggled with alcoholism, urged him to drop out of high … Read More

Rural Reporting Project

Top 1 Percent of Texas Commodity Farmers Get Quarter of $1.6 Billion in Subsidies

Subsidy program reforms were supposed to save taxpayers billions, but corn and sorghum farmers in Texas are getting more money than they have in a decade.

Jen Reel Last year in Nueces County, sorghum farmers raked in $10.9 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies. Corn farmers in Castro County took $12.6 million. In Deaf Smith County, the kingpins of cotton were paid $32.5 million, according to new farm … Read More

Civil Rights, News

Lawsuit: City of Port Isabel Blocked Public Housing for Latinos Displaced by Hurricane Dolly

After the 2008 hurricane, city officials refused to issue permits so that public housing could be rebuilt in an affluent neighborhood, the complaint says.

City leaders in Port Isabel “repeatedly thwarted” efforts to rebuild public housing overwhelmingly used by Latinos after Hurricane Dolly hit the Rio Grande Valley in 2008, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday by the Cameron County Housing Authority. Fair … Read More

Rural Reporting Project

New Estimate Puts Harvey Agriculture Losses at $200 Million, One-Tenth of Irma

The figure is only one-fifth of Hurricane Ike’s $1 billion agriculture losses and one-tenth of Irma’s.

Hurricane Harvey caused an estimated $200 million in agricultural losses as it flooded farm fields and washed cattle from ranches, according to a Texas A&M University analysis released Friday. Worst hit was the state’s small-but-thriving cotton belt along the Upper … Read More

Border

Immigrant Workers in Texas Could Fill Farm Vacancies, but They’re Trapped in the Valley

Immigration checkpoints are keeping undocumented immigrants in South Texas while farmers in other parts of the state are desperate for labor.

For the last two years, Bernie Thiel has watched yellow squash rot in his farm fields outside of Lubbock. The crops weren’t diseased, and they weren’t ravaged by pests or pelted by hail, he said. There just wasn’t anyone to … Read More

Texas Politics

Despite GOP Claims, an Estate Tax Repeal Won’t Help 99 Percent of Farmers

The estate tax is levied on few farmers and ranchers, but Republicans still are pushing for its repeal.

When President Donald Trump and GOP leaders unveiled the framework for their tax reform package last week, they promised to vanquish what they say is a longtime foe of the American farmer: the estate tax. Called the “death tax” by … Read More

Environment

Costs for Rural Towns Surge after Hurricane Harvey Hits Water Systems

In Patton Village, some residents went weeks without access to clean drinking water, and now their sewer system is running on a “Band-aid.”

Patton Village had just started using its new $10 million wastewater treatment system when Hurricane Harvey wrecked it last month. Floodwaters fried the pumps’ circuitry and flooded a nearby municipal water well. Residents of one neighborhood went weeks without clean … Read More

Environment

Reports of Livestock Deaths, Other Ag Losses Trickle in After Harvey

The Texas Animal Health Commission and USDA, however, are mum on an estimated death toll.

At the peak of Harvey’s flooding in southeast Texas, Chambers County rancher Richie Devillier couldn’t distinguish between the westbound lane of Interstate 10 and the Gulf of Mexico. Torrential rainfall had filled in one side of the massive roadway, and … Read More

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