farming

The Future of Work in Texas – A Texas Standard special

Texas is changing, and so is the world. If we squint to try to look at the future job landscape, what do we see? There are more than 15 million working Texans right now, but while the state boasts steady growth and “record high levels” for jobs and the labor force, there are always unknowns on the horizon.
Among them: tech advancements and the impacts of climate change. So how will the jobs of tomorrow look different? We’re exploring all that and more today in The Future of Work in Texas.

How this man survived in the West Texas desert for 27 hours

What does Congress’ budget deal to avert a partial government shutdown mean for food and the farmers and ranchers who produce it? We’ll hear more on the Farm Bill extension, and the implications for Texas.

The push for police accountability: An investigative report from the Austin American-Statesman reveals that police indictments rarely lead to convictions.

Last weekend’s destructive rocket launch was a big fail for SpaceX – or was it? What explains radically mixed reviews of the Starship test launch.

Plus the harrowing account of a Texas hiker, lost in Big Bend Ranch State Park in triple-digit heat, and his near-miraculous survival.

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Sen. Roland Gutierrez on Uvalde, one year later

On the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting in Uvalde that left 19 fourth-graders and two teachers dead, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez says he’s still pushing for gun reform. Meanwhile, trust in police remains frail in Uvalde.

A report from Matamoros on migrants in limbo after the end of Title 42.

As Austin firefighters rack up millions in overtime, the department is working to address mental health needs.

And state officials team up with a Texas producer for a walk on the wild side: a musical celebration of Texas parks.

Why many Texas cotton farmers are planting less this year

After a disastrous season for cotton production, could Texas lose its crown as top producer? Three Texans on the front lines talk about why some fear 2023 could be a tipping point.

The head of the University of Texas System Board of Regents puts a pause on new diversity, equity and inclusion policies.

With student debt forgiveness plans on hold, what are the implications for those struggling most to get out from under it?

Also tech expert Omar Gallaga on the rising price of social media verification and whether it pays to buy into the changes.

How are Texas ranchers dealing with a hay shortage?

Two prominent scholars weigh in on what Texans should be listening for in tonight’s State of the Union address.

School vouchers or something quite similar promise to play a big role in the Texas legislative session now underway.

After a drought and ice storms, many Texas ranchers are facing a hay shortage and are fighting rising prices and scrambling for alternatives.

And a case from Texas 20 years ago that had ripple effects nationwide: our conversation with Wesley Phelps, the author of “Before Lawrence v. Texas: The Making of a Queer Social Movement.”

Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr.

Texas marks MLK day with parades, celebrations and reflections on the life and the impact of a giant in the civil rights movement. Coming up, civil rights scholar, teacher and author Peniel Joseph with reflections on what the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have thought of today’s political and social landscape. Also with the Texas Legislature in recess until tomorrow, a look ahead at what to expect in this second week of the 88th session. And if you bought it, you can fix it… unless it’s a tractor? How the farm became a focal point in a fight over the right to repair. And concerns about an oil spill in the Gulf activists say hasn’t been cleaned up. All that and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: September 28, 2022

In Florida, as flood warnings go out ahead of hurricane landfall, echoes of Texas’ Hurricane Harvey. The managing editor of space city weather with a live update on Hurricane Ian and parallels to a catastrophic storms in Houston. Also after relatively upbeat reports on Texas’ economy, is the Dallas fed changing its tune? Plus an update on the trial of the mass shooter accused in the attack on an El Paso Walmart. And non-profits taking a new tack to encourage Texas farmers to use less water. Plus a Politifact check of a claim about democrats objecting to presidential election outcomes. Those stories and much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: August 22, 2022

Just eleven weeks till midterms and the numbers tell us what about how close the contest between Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke? That today on the Texas Standard.

Political analyst Mark Jones of Rice University with how the issues in the news cycle are affecting Texas polls in the run-up to November 8th.

A rise in violence in cities across the border with Mexico. Angela Kochera with the latest from Juarez, after a wave of killings there.

August, the hottest month in Texas? Maybe not this year. A change in the weather projected for the rest of August, though perhaps not wet enough to save some cattle ranchers. Those stories and a whole lot more.

Texas Standard: June 14, 2022

A June heatwave across Texas testing the limits of our power grid and shattering records statewide. Any relief in sight? We’ll take a closer look. Other stories we’re tracking: with more Supreme Court opinions expected to be issued tomorrow, what a pre-Roe Texas might tells us about what could happen should the high court reverse its landmark abortion rulings. Also, the Texas Standard’s Alexa Hart reports on what’s compelled so many Texans to put their lives on hold and travel hours to visit Uvalde. And the north Texas church denied approval to appoint two pastors who identify as LGBTQ, but the church appointed them anyway. Those stories and much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 19, 2022

20 miles southwest of Abilene evacuation orders are issued as a dangerous heat fire consumes homes, we’ll have the latest. Also, migrants fill shelters in Ciudad Juarez waiting for a major change in U.S. immigration enforcement that could come as soon as Monday. And waves for wheat farmers: how a topsy turvy global market is hitting Texas’ breadbasket. Also tech companies in Texas and beyond, how they’re dealing with the great resignation. And the newly created U.S. Space Force reaches critical velocity…but to do what exactly? Those stories and more when today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 9, 2022

Texans overwhelming approved two constitutional amendments promising some tax relief. So what happens now? We’ll take a look. We’ll also dive deep into one Dallas neighborhood for some understanding of the challenges facing lower-income renters everywhere. And the head of the state’s juvenile justice department resigned just over a week ago. Why the timing has some advocates worried. Plus eyes are on an annual celebration in Russia this year, we’ll have what a Texas-based expert is watching for. And Lockhart, Texas is synonymous with BBQ, but it’s a veggie-growing enterprise there that’s caught our attention. We took a trip to find out why what’s going on there is so cutting edge. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: August 23, 2021

As more Texas students return to school more are finding confusion and chaos over mask orders. So where do we stand? We’ll have more on the confusion. Also, the start of an in depth look at some of the new laws set to take effect in Texas next month. Today, a look at restrictions aimed at curbing the teaching of critical race theory. And the return of a quorum in the Texas House. With the stalemate broken in the second special session, what comes next? Also a new program at Texas A&M to encourage farming sustainability with the help of bugs. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Watermelon Season

It’s June. Watermelon season. All my life, June has meant watermelon season and I don’t mean it’s just the time of year to eat them. As a kid, it also meant a time to work, and work hard, from can’t-see-in-the-morning to can’t-see-at-night, for no more than a little over a dollar an hour to get the melons out of the fields. So every June, I can’t help but drive by the fields and nostalgically marvel at the stamina we once enjoyed. Now in our sixties, my friends from those days often hypothetically wonder how long we think we could last in those fields today. The general belief is about thirty minutes… providing the ambulance got there on time.

In my little town, as was true for many ag towns across Texas, we thought of watermelons as our fourth sport. The fall started with football and then we had basketball and baseball, and then, watermelons. We thought we should have been able to letter in watermelons. For those who played football, pitching melons half the summer was ideal conditioning. There were three kinds – grays, stripes and black diamonds. The grays were kind of like footballs – a little heavier of course. The stripes were enormous – and averaged 35 pounds or more. The black diamonds were the most despised because they were heavy and round like a medicine ball. Hard to pitch and hard to catch. The best thing about watermelon season was being able, when tired, to cut open a beautiful melon in the field and to eat just the cool, sweet heart of it, and move on. Nature’s Gatorade.

There was a hierarchy in the fields. You’d start out as a pitcher, making a dollar, twenty-five an hour, at least that was the going rate in the late 1960s. You would work with a crew of four or five and take a large trailer, generally pulled by a tractor, out into the fields to load with melons. The crew would fan out and then, like a bucket brigade, toss the cut melons in their path to the next guy in line and he’d pitch it to the next guy who’d throw it up to the man in the trailer. You didn’t want to be the man working by the trailer because you had to handle every melon and lift it up over your head for the guy in the trailer to set it down with reasonable care so as not to break it open. The best job was to be either the man in the trailer or the outside man who handled the least number of melons, only those in his path. Yet it didn’t matter which job was yours, it was still brutal work. You worked in the giant sauna of the Texas summer, often in 100 degrees with no wind and stifling humidity. But it was about the only work you could get at 13 or 14, so you gladly did it and when you got your 80 dollars at the end of the week, you felt rich if not sunburnt and tired. And you longed for the day you could move up to cutter or stacker. Being a cutter was a good job because you didn’t pitch anymore. You went down the rows and identified, by sight, the melons that were ripe and ready to harvest and the proper weight for the store wanting them (H-E-B for instance – grays 18-to-24 pounds). You would cut them from the vine and stand on them on end for the pitchers to come along later and get them. The only downside was you were the first to come upon the rare rattler hidden in the vines. For this job you made $3.00 an hour. Double the pay. Knowledge is power.

The final and best job in the field was stacker. You might get to be stacker by your third or fourth season, when you are 17 or so. You’d work inside the big 18-wheeler trailers and stack the melons “to ride.” The little trailers, or pickup trucks would come in from the fields and the line would form to pitch the melons to you inside the trailer. Stacking was an art form. Taking into account the weight and shape of the melons you’d stack them into tiers about 8 or 9 rows high, nice and tight, so they wouldn’t shift and break on the long ride north.

The best stackers would start the season in the Rio Grande Valley and follow harvest north all the way up into the Panhandle where there would be a late summer and fall harvest. They’d make 25 dollars per 18 wheeler. Serious money, then.

The greatest thing about those years and that work, at least for many men (and some women) who worked in those fields, is that they say it taught them a work ethic that has never deserted them.

Texas Standard: March 30, 2021

As the Texas Senate votes to force power generators to better prepare for weather extremes, new insights on what Texans actually want. A new University of Houston hobby school survey on the impact of the February freeze and power outages, and how Texans want the system to change. Also more on an 8 billion dollar plan being pitched to Texas lawmakers that promises a 7 day power backup in the event of future emergencies. And as vaccines are rolled out in Texas prisons, a new report card on how well lockups and juvenile facilities in Texas have tracked the spread of COVID-19. Those stories and much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: September 29, 2020

A Texas county sheriff has turned himself in to the county jail he oversees after an investigation of evidence tampering in the death of a Black motorist. The sheriff of Williamson county indicted on felony charges stemming from the destruction of video evidence in death of Javier Ambler. This after a police chase filmed for a so-called reality TV show, we’ll have the latest. Also, where’s the beef? For many in this pandemic, its being shipped to the front door, causing ripple effects across the supply chain, we’ll explain. Plus disappearing Coronavirus data for schools and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: February 6, 2020

The impeachment drama is over… Or is it really? And where does it leave us? We’ll take a look at the implications of the Senate vote for Texas. Plus, a pair of markers erected in Rio Grande City. What they say about an historic workers strike that left a deep impression on the Texas landscape. Plus- how a robot could help save the Gulf of Mexico from the rapidly reproducing Lionfish. And our go-to tech guy on the return of “gaming” the low-tech way. Plus why lots of Texans won’t stop talking about a certain halftime show. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: July 10, 2019

The Trump Administration’s so-called Remain in Mexico program expands to include Laredo. We’ll take a closer look at the impact. Also at the border, Texas National Guard troops are being deployed to help. But what are they doing exactly? We’ll explore. And remembering Ross Perot: the legacy of the self-made Texas billionaire. Plus, a Hemp rush. Texas farmers are scrambling to plant the crop, but there are hurdles to clear first. And helping students with dyslexia. The new path forward for kids in Texas schools. All of that and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: June 6, 2019

Citing a crisis, border officials say they will cut off funding for anything not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety in U.S. shelters. Officials tell the operators of resettlement shelters to end English classes, recreation programs and other services because there isn’t the money to pay for it. We’ll take a closer look. Also, concerns about suicide among farmers and a new effort to reach out across rural Texas. Plus, what voting data tells us about just how far to the right and left our own lawmakers really are. Those stories and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 22, 2019

The biggest mental health bill of this legislative session killed. Then in literally the 11th hour, brought back to life. It was one of Governor Abbott’s top priorities in the aftermath of the school shooting at Santa Fe: a bill to connect children to mental health services. We’ll hear how it went down, and roared back. Also, the lone democratic presidential contender with a detailed immigration plan. Plus the charge that 80 to 90 percent of asylum claims are unfounded, a politifact check and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 14, 2019

A bill killed by the LGBTQ caucus in the Texas House is revived in the senate. A battle in the culture wars? We’ll have the latest. Plus with the final day of this legislative session fast approaching, The Texas Senate appears to be fast tracking a religious liberty bill opponents say amounts to a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. We’ll have details. And, the helium shortage and Texas’ oversized role in it. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard: