VIDEOSee how fortunes are changing for cotton farmers

Cotton Farmers See Crop Destruction, Little Payoff

While many rural communities have eagerly welcomed Texas’ drilling boom, most of Glasscock County’s 1,251 residents would have been happier if the drillers had passed them by.

Cotton farmers in this community east of Midland generally do not own the mineral rights to the land that they farm; many of them sold them off to investors decades ago to help boost their income in the midst of drought. That leaves them powerless to stop energy developers from drilling wells on their property, even as it destroys valuable cropland and cuts into their profits.

The shale boom hasn’t been all bad news for these farmers. Some have received one-time payments from energy companies to cover surface damages; others have sold groundwater to drillers. Oil and gas operators now pay the bulk of property taxes in Glasscock County. Yet locals like cotton farmer Dennis Fuchs say those gains do not make up for the spike in traffic, accidents and trash, as well as widespread fears that their quiet community’s way of life has been irrevocably changed.

Glasscock County

Glasscock County by the Numbers

2000 2010 2013
Population 1,406 1,226 1,251
2002 2012
Number of farms 199 186
Farmland (acres) 493,000 434,000
Oil production (barrels) 4.6M 15.4M
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Railroad Commission