POTENTIAL future commissioners for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) continue to be named, but none with the agricultural experience desired by those in the industry.
New rules to implement the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act as well as other regulations affecting agriculture have made the commissioners' roles crucial.
The latest came Dec. 19 with the nomination of Sharon Bowen to take the seat currently held by commissioner Bart Chilton. CFTC chairman Gary Gensler announced that he will leave the commission on Dec. 31, and the White House has nominated U.S. Department of Treasury official Timothy Massad to replace him. Former CFTC commissioner Jill Sommers resigned in July, and J. Christopher Giancarlo has been nominated to fill her seat.
A coalition of agricultural interests as well as top members of Capitol Hill had pushed to ensure that agriculture had a strong voice representing the industry on CFTC, which oversees regulatory markets for futures and widely affects the countryside.
Bowen is a partner at the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP. She joined Latham & Watkins as an associate in 1988 and became partner in 1991. Prior to this, from 1982 to 1988, Bowen was an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.
She currently serves as acting chair of the Securities Investor Protection Corp., an organization set up by Congress to act as trustee or work with court-appointed trustees in missing asset cases to recover funds. Bowen oversaw the recent MF Global case.
In response to Bowen's nomination, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) said, "Ms. Bowen has a strong background in customer account protection, and I look forward to meeting her to discuss her understanding of agriculture commodity markets and have a serious conversation about the impact of the CFTC's actions on North Dakota farmers."
Any action on White House nominations to fill vacancies at CFTC will have to wait until 2014, according to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, citing end-of-the-year pressure to pass the farm bill and complete House/Senate budget negotiations. This means CFTC will likely have only two of its five commissioners on Jan. 1.
Heitkamp recently met with Massad to talk about how federal financial policies determined by the agency will affect farmers and North Dakota energy businesses that buy commodities.
Heitkamp, a member of both the Senate agriculture and banking committees, urged Massad, if confirmed, to always evaluate the impact potential regulations will have on agricultural producers.
CFTC oversees important financial markets that are regularly used by producers. While its responsibilities have been expanded over the years, CFTC is also responsible for protecting farmers from bad bets in the financial markets that could hurt them.
"For more than 150 years, farmers have operated responsibly in the financial markets to execute prudent business planning. The CFTC must make sure the regulations they pursue do not impact the livelihoods of the hardworking farmers and ranchers in North Dakota," Heitkamp said. "At the same time, the CFTC must also make sure that farmers and other businesses are protected from bad-faith financial actors that jeopardize their ability to make plans to sell crops. I stressed the importance of striking this balance, and I'll continue to push for strong yet workable protections."