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:


Documents Show Financial Entanglements Between Trump’s USDA Pick and Agribusiness

Mindy Brashears, a Texas Tech animal scientist nominated by Trump to lead the food safety arm of the USDA, is deeply embedded in the agribusiness industry.

Trump’s nominee to head the food safety division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is deeply entangled with agribusiness. According to ethics documents obtained by the Observer, Texas Tech University animal scientist Mindy Brashears has earned at least $320,000 from … Read More

sunset commission

Lawmakers Killed a Plan to Shut Down 87 Driver’s Licenses Offices. That’s Good News for Voters.

The DPS proposed to close “inefficient” driver’s licenses office in mainly rural areas, even though it would have created an extra hurdle for voters to get state-required photo ID.

In a victory for Texas voters on Wednesday, a panel of state lawmakers unanimously killed a proposal to shutter up to 87 “inefficient” Department of Public Safety driver’s license offices in mostly rural areas. DPS issued the proposal after the … Read More


Beto’s Drawing Big Crowds in Small Towns. But What’s His Plan for Rural Texas?

Focusing on rural access to health care, high-speed internet and immigrant farm labor, O’Rourke’s rural platform looks to be cogent and cohesive, if still a little skinny.

Beto’s Drawing Big Crowds in Small Towns. But What’s His Plan for Rural Texas? Focusing on rural access to health care, high-speed internet and immigrant farm labor, O’Rourke’s rural platform looks to be cogent and cohesive, if still a little … Read More

Texas Legislature

In Boerne, a Youth Suicide Prevention Effort that May Actually Work

Boerne ISD was once in the grips of a student suicide crisis, but now a prevention program has kept the district suicide-free for the last three years.

A decade ago, Boerne ISD — an 8,700-student district on the outskirts of San Antonio — was in crisis. Students were inexplicably killing themselves at the rate of almost one per year from 2006 to 2014. Among them was a … Read More


In New ‘Spray Box’ Decision, Sid Miller Dances Himself Right Back to Where He Started

In a dizzying two weeks for the Texas ag commissioner, cattle spray boxes have been closed and reopened with little explanation.

Illustration/Sunny Sone For the last two weeks, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has choreographed a dizzying do-si-do with cattle ranchers, state and federal regulators and a despised, eight-legged critter. It’s taken just 11 days for Miller to personally go to … Read More

sid miller

Sid Miller Ticks off Farm and Ranch Groups by Personally Shutting Down ‘Spray Boxes’

After some ranchers complained, the state’s agriculture commissioner halted 16 pesticide operations in South Texas that were allegedly misapplying a poison.

Remember when Sid Miller suggested that the entire “Muslim world” should be nuked? How about when he brought back deep fryers and sugary drinks to school cafeterias? Or when he was accused of exercising a horse by tying it to … Read More


Amid Record Youth Suicide Attempts, Texas Lags in Prevention Training for Teachers

Despite a 2015 law requiring suicide prevention training for teachers, state officials say they do not monitor or enforce the requirement.

Pretty much everyone at Fairfield High School liked Jonathan Childers, a 15-year-old with kind brown eyes and a wide smile. The freshman played football, lifted weights for the school team and raised animals in the FFA. He had lots of … Read More


Texas Farmers are Fed Up With Trump’s Trade War, but Most Stop Short of Blaming Him

The state’s dominant ag products, valued at $18 billion, are in the crosshairs of retaliatory tariffs. Still, most farmers here are hesitant to criticize Trump.

Russell Boening, a Texas farmer and rancher who’s also president of the Texas Farm Bureau, is starting to feel the effects of escalating trade conflicts between the United States and its trading partners, namely China. In response to tariffs on … Read More

air pollution

Report: Oil and Gas Production Is Making People Sick in Rural Texas

“The price of living near oil and gas shouldn't be giving up your health.”

Sue and Jim Franklin’s double-wide mobile home at the foot of the Davis Mountains in far West Texas is usually sealed up tight with the air conditioner blasting. One reason is because they live in Reeves County, a crown-shaped section … Read More