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. View an interactive story map here.
An inspector at a special deregulated hog plant told the Observer that the USDA’s new pork slaughter proposal that eliminates maximum line speeds is a “recipe for disaster.”
On March 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top food safety official delivered good news to the pork industry. The official was Mindy Brashears, a forme...Read More
The all-Republican court has removed criminal penalties for violating a portion of the state Open Meetings Act.
The windows of Texas government have been tinted even darker thanks to a landmark ruling Wednesday by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The nine-member panel...Read More
For decades, the energy company has leased to the state the property on which Fairfield Lake State Park sits. But there’s no guarantee the new buyer will do the same.
For decades, Fairfield Lake State Park has been a fixture of family life for Brenda Pate. She’s spent countless hours at the park, an expanse of timber, trail...Read More
On its 430-mile path to the Gulf, the natural gas pipeline would gash the iconic Hill Country, a region relatively free from oil and gas development.
The golden-cheeked warbler — a compact, yellow-headed songbird that migrates from Mexico to Central Texas each March — is in trouble. The endangered species...Read More
As more and more rural Texas communities become “news deserts," the civic life of small towns is suffering too.
For the last eight years, Cochran County, a square of farming and ranching country in the High Plains, has gone without a local newspaper. The weekly Morton Tri...Read More
The federal poverty level fails to take into account 2.6 million struggling Texas households.
It ain’t cheap living in the oil boomtown of Midland, where the fracking frenzy sweeping through West Texas has led to an eyeball-popping spike in rent. In 20...Read More
An environmental group found that all of Texas’ coal-fired power plants have polluted groundwater with multiple chemicals, including arsenic, which was detected at 13 of the 15 sites.
In 1975, Alonzo Peeler Jr. figured that selling a small section of his ranchland to a power company was a sage financial move. Now 78, the lifelong rancher says...Read More
Texas is a super-user of federal housing programs, but the shutdown has brought loans, tax credits and rental assistance to a screeching halt, hurting poor Texans the most.
The heating and cooling units inside Sandstone Foothills Apartments, which houses low-income seniors in Mineral Wells, need to be replaced and the aging elevato...Read More
In the farming town of Dalhart, where voters resoundingly put Trump in office, immigrants have staved off population loss and boosted the local economy.
These Rural Panhandle Towns Should be Shrinking. But Thanks to Immigrants, They’re Booming. In the farming town of Dalhart, where voters resoundingly put Trum...Read More