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:

conaway, cornyn, cruz, farm bill

Texas Republicans Fail to Kick a Million People off Food Stamps After Trying for a Year

As rural Americans struggled in 2018, Midland Congressman Mike Conaway was laser-focused on making it harder for the working poor to eat.

The $867 billion Farm Bill passed by Congress this week did not include stricter work requirements that would have pummeled food stamp recipients, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by Texas’ Republican delegation. The effort, spearheaded by Midland Congressman … Read More

Health Care

‘How Can You Do This to People?’: After Rural Hospitals Close in Milam County, Residents Scramble to Find Care

Little River Healthcare shuttered two Milam County hospitals after falling on hard financial times. Now residents are struggling to find care.

Shan Wilson’s surgery will have to wait. The 64-year-old retired Marine was scheduled to have his prostate removed in early January at the only hospital in Rockdale, a town of 5,600 between Round Rock and College Station. Wilson had it … Read More

Health Care

Struggling Rural Hospitals Say They’re Being Preyed Upon by Blue Cross Blue Shield

Hospital administrators throughout Texas say the insurance company is using “strong-arm” tactics to push unfavorable contracts.

It’s hard to keep a hospital running in Iraan, a dusty community of 1,229 people in the middle of the West Texas oil patch. In the 2017 fiscal year, Iraan General Hospital lost $1.1 million; in 2018, it lost $1.2 … Read More


In 2019, Another Chance to Fix the Texas Public Information Act

With a GOP committee chair gone and new bills in the pipeline, state lawmakers and government transparency advocates seek to close loopholes in Texas open records law.

It’s been three years since Enrique Iglesias walked away from the Rio Grande Valley holding a proverbial sack full of taxpayer cash. He got the money in 2015 for crooning in the city of McAllen’s annual holiday concert and parade, … Read More

beto, elections

Ted Cruz Won Because of Rural Texas, but Beto Made Small Gains for Democrats

O’Rourke’s strategy of hitting all 254 counties didn’t win him the race, but it likely gained Democratic ground in small-town Texas, Republicans’ most reliable stronghold.

At first glance, it would appear as if Democrats were dealt a series of miserable defeats in rural Texas Tuesday. Beto O’Rourke, who spent beaucoup time and money to campaign in all of Texas’ 254 counties, won only 32 of … Read More


In East Texas, Chicken Plants are Polluting Rivers and Lakes with Oxygen-Sucking Contaminants

A report released by the Environmental Integrity Project identified Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson as major dischargers of wastewater containing high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

The Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” — a Connecticut-sized stretch of saltwater where chemical runoff from farms in the Mississippi River watershed feeds oxygen-stifling algal blooms — gets a lot of press. The low oxygen levels spur massive fish kills … Read More

sid miller

Sid Miller’s Ag Department Knew About Dangerous Pesticide Violations in 2015, Did Nothing for Two Years

A state inspector found that USDA's fever tick teams broke state and federal rules by indiscriminately spraying poison and dumping toxic pesticides on ranchland.

On August 17, 2015, Harlingen rancher Danny Davis called in a complaint to the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). Like many others who raise cattle and horses near the U.S.-Mexico border, Davis was caught in the state-federal fever tick dragnet … Read More

A wind farm near Amarillo

Inside the Coordinated Attack on a North Texas Wind Farm

Conservative lawmakers, an oil investor and other activists did all they could to stop a wind project in rural Texas, even as the state has increasingly embraced renewable energy.

Earlier this year, a Canadian energy producer was poised to build two large wind farms in Clay County, a mostly featureless stretch of plains at the Texas-Oklahoma line. The 300-megawatt project would have bolstered Texas’ growing portfolio of renewable energy, … Read More