agriculture * food * energy * environment
By Robert Pore
Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning have signed an amicus curiea, or “friend of the court” brief, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hold that the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment, thereby protecting Americans’ right to bear arms.
The amicus brief, signed by 309 bipartisan Members of Congress from both the House and the Senate, has been filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago. Both Sens. Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns have both signed the amicus brief.
“A ruling the Second Amendment does not apply to the states and to their localities would not only jeopardize our individual right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, it would also be contrary to the legislative history of the Fourteenth Amendment, whose sponsors in the Reconstruction era clearly intended to protect the right to keep and bear arms against infringement by state and local governments,” according to the letter Smith signed.
“The Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to keep and bear arms, and for too long this right has been denied to some Americans simply because of where they live,” Smith said. ”Law abiding citizens who live in Chicago have just as much right to protect themselves and their families as do Nebraskans.”
He is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen Caucus.
Smith said the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago is one of several which were filed after last year’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court struck down Washington D.C.’s ban on handgun possession, as well as the city’s ban on keeping loaded, operable firearms for self-defense in the home.
He said the McDonald case is expected to be argued in early 2010.
Nelson, also as member of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus (CSC), is urging other members to sign on to a brief in support of gun owners which will be submitted to the Supreme Court as it considers the McDonald v. City of Chicago case.
“As an avid hunter, I believe the government has a limited role in regulating the ownership of guns,” said Nelson. “I supported the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller and I hope it will reach a similar conclusion in McDonald. I am reaching out to all 53 Senate members of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus to urge their support for law-abiding gun owners.”
The amicus curiae brief was originally circulated in the Senate by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Jon Tester.
Bruning said the State of Nebraska has filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court urging justices to protect Second Amendment rights.
In a friend of the court brief, Bruning said the protection of the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments under the Fourteenth Amendment.
He said 37 other state attorneys general have joined in the amicus brief.
“We’re asking the Court to protect our ability to keep and bear arms to the same degree as the rest of the Bill of Rights,” Bruning said.
The brief in McDonald v. Chicago, Bruning said, supports a suit brought by Otis McDonald, a community activist who lives in a high-crime portion of Chicago. His work has drawn threats from local drug dealers, but Chicago city ordinances prohibit owning a handgun for protection.
Last year, Bruning said he and 31 other state attorneys general filed an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Heller that successfully argued that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.
According to Bruning, the City of Chicago contends that the Heller decision does not apply to state and city governments. The attorneys general brief explains why Constitutional protections should apply to city, county, and state governments under the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“Cities and states should not pick and choose what part of the Constitution they want to recognize,” Bruning said. “They can’t just throw out the Bill of Rights.”
“Just as local governments cannot constitutionally act as ‘laboratories’ for initiatives to abrogate their citizens’ right to free speech or their freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, nor can they nullify the fundamental right to keep and bear arms secured by the Second Amendment,” the brief contends.
Since 1996, crop plants genetically modified to produce bacterial proteins that are toxic to certain insects, yet safe for people, have been planted on more than 200 million hectares worldwide.
The popularity of these Bt crops, named after the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, comes from their ability to kill some major pests, allowing farmers to save money and lessen environmental impacts by reducing insecticide sprays.
Nebraska farmers planted 91 percent of their corn crop this year to biotech varieties, including Bt crops.
According to lead author of a new study looking at biotech crops, Dr. Bruce E. Tabashnik, “Resistance is not something to be afraid of, but something that we expect and can manage if we understand it. Dozens of studies monitoring how pests have responded to Bt crops have created a treasure trove of data showing that resistance has emerged in a few pest populations, but not in most others. By systematically analyzing the extensive data, we can learn what accelerates resistance and what delays it. With this knowledge, we can more effectively predict and thwart pest resistance.”
Among the authors’ conclusions are:
With Bt crop acreage increasing worldwide, Tabashnik said incorporating enhanced understanding of observed patterns of field-evolved resistance into future resistance management strategies can help to minimize the drawbacks and maximize the benefits of current and future generations of transgenic crops.
A study by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture have concluded that 50 million U.S. acres of cropland, idle cropland, and cropland pasture could be converted from current uses to the production of perennial grasses, such as switchgrass, from which biomass could be harvested for use as a biofuel feedstock. Economically viable production of a perennial grass monoculture from which substantial quantities of biomass are removed annually is expected to require nitrogen fertilizer.
According to Oklahoma State agricultural economics graduate student, Mohua Haque, “For the soil and weather conditions that prevailed at the experiment site for the duration of the study, switchgrass clearly produced more dry biomass per dollar cost than the other three species. If perennial grass for biofuel feedstock is the best alternative for a field, and if the biomass price exceeds the cost of production, the optimal strategy would be to establish switchgrass, and in post-establishment years, to fertilize with 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year, and to harvest once per year after senescence.”
If an economically viable system for conversion of biomass from perennial grasses to biofuels is developed, Haque said millions of acres may be bid from current uses and seeded to switchgrass.
Richer nations with competitive crop production and few trade barriers would fare the best if climate change, weather events or other factors cause yields of grain and oilseed crops to become more volatile, a new study has found.
By these criteria, the United States is poised to do well, but France would come out on top, according to the study of 21 countries conducted by economists at Oregon State University.
“It’s important to know this because yields of most rain-fed grains and oilseeds remain highly variable despite decades of agronomic advances,” said the study’s lead author, Jeff Reimer. “Their yields depend largely on weather. Research shows that climate change may increase variability in yields of some crops.”