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:

usda, trump, brashears
Politics

Texas Tech Professor with Close Ties to Big Ag Nominated by Trump to Regulate the Industry

Mindy Brashears could profit from the same industry she’s regulating if she doesn’t divest herself from potential income associated with her patents, a watchdog group says.

A Texas Tech University professor and food scientist with close ties to the agriculture industry has been tapped by President Donald Trump to oversee food safety for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mindy Brashears, who also heads the university’s International … Read More

lubbock, cochran county, agriculture, rural reporter
News, Rural Reporting Project

The Dark Horse of the Lubbock Farm Meeting Rides

An agriculture department meeting meant to elicit input from area produce growers was derailed by a government attorney with Nazis, sexism and sterilization on the brain.

A Texas Department of Agriculture meeting designed to gather input from Panhandle fruit and vegetable growers affected by new food safety regulations devolved into a full-blown shitshow Tuesday when a government attorney compared federal regulators to Nazis, derided a female … Read More

Politics

Proposed Changes to SNAP in the Farm Bill Could Leave Rural Texans Hungry

The changes would waylay working-class families in small-town Texas, where a country-to-city exodus has caused some rural economies to flounder, advocates say.

Libby Campbell hates to see people in West Texas go hungry, but that’s exactly what could happen if Congressional Republicans follow through with their plan to cut off food aid to those who miss one month of work. Campbell is … Read More

Environment

In Washington, D.C., Republicans are Writing the Recipe for a Smoldering Panhandle

A plan to increase the number of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program but cut staff to enforce program rules spells trouble for the fire-prone region.

If you thought wildfires in the Texas Panhandle were bad before, just wait. Proposed changes to a U.S. Department of Agriculture land conservation program, combined with possible USDA staffing cuts and a warming climate, could be a deadly combination for … Read More

suicide, farmer
News, Rural Reporting Project

Congress Never Funded Program to Prevent Farmer Suicides. Now It’s an Epidemic.

With farmers’ suicide rates higher than some veterans, rural advocates are pushing Congress to fund mental health care supports for agricultural producers.

After Judith McGeary discovered that several dozen sheep had been slaughtered by a mountain lion on her 160-acre ranch near Waco in 2015, she unexpectedly found herself struggling with depression. Every one of the sheep had been born at McGeary … Read More

rural reporting, tumbleweed, tractor
Politics

Rural Texans Supported Trump, but They’ve Yet to Reap the Rewards

The president has taken a small step toward funding infrastructure projects in the nation’s small towns, but rural Texans aren’t beneficiaries.

Voters in parts of the country’s deep red regions are finally starting to reap slight rewards for sending Donald Trump to the White House, but those benefits haven’t been extended to the rural Texans who helped him beat Hillary Clinton … Read More

texas open records, access denied, open meetings, texas legislature
Politics

Access Denied

How lawmakers, the Texas Supreme Court and Ken Paxton closed the door on open government.

How lawmakers, the Texas Supreme Court and Ken Paxton closed the door on open government. – by Christopher Collins @collins_reports April 2, 2018 By most measures, McAllen’s 2015 Christmas parade and concert was a wild success. Telenovela stars, radio personalities … Read More

Politics

Is the Texas Open Meetings Act the Next Target for Transparency-Killing Legislation?

A Fort Bend County commissioner wants state lawmakers to consider exemptions to the open government law during emergencies, part of a larger trend of officials slackening important regulations in the name of public safety.

As Hurricane Harvey’s torrential rains battered Fort Bend County in late August, flooding 4,000 homes in a largely unincorporated area near Katy, County Commissioner Andy Myers needed to coordinate high-water rescues and discuss mandatory evacuation warnings with other local leaders. … Read More

homelessness, amarillo, tent city
News, Rural Reporting Project

In Rare Legal Move, the City of Amarillo Takes Landowner to Court Over Homeless Camp

Experts say the city’s lawsuit, filed this month against a man who allowed a homeless camp to be developed on his property, is virtually unprecedented.

In a nearly unprecedented move, the city of Amarillo has made good on its threat to take a landowner to court over a homeless encampment on his property. City officials filed the lawsuit this month in state district court against … Read More

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