Rural Reporting Project
Texas has the largest rural population of any state — 3.8 million people — yet many journalists treat much of the state as flyover country. The Observer has made reporting on rural Texas a priority with this long-term project. Staff writer Christopher Collins, who has investigated how crop dusting is putting Texans’ health at risk and the connection between destructive Panhandle wildfires and a mismanaged federal land program, is spearheading the effort from West Texas.
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 hors...Read More
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-Oklah...Read More
Journalist Sarah Smarsh’s book encapsulates what it’s like to grow up in the forgotten farm fields of America, artfully mixing anecdote with political context and societal commentary.
Having fun during a Kansas winter, as Sarah Smarsh writes in her new memoir, Heartland, requires creativity: “Lots of snow, no hills.” In one memora...Read More
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 ob...Read More
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 ...Read More
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 fa...Read More
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 ...Read More
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 ca...Read More
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...Read More