Obama begins filling empty CFTC posts

Agricultural coalition seeking one commissioner to have more extensive agricultural background.

Of the five member Commodity Futures Trading Commission, three seats will need to be filled by the end of the year. These departures create a unique opportunity to recast the Commission in this new era via the appointment of three new Commissioners, those in the agricultural industry state.

Republican Commissioner Jill Sommers left earlier this year and Democrat Commissioner Bart Chilton announced recently he will step down from his post "in the not too distant future." In addition, Chairman Gary Gensler's replacement – senior Treasury Department official Tim Massad – was officially nominated by the President Tuesday.

For the past few years Massad has been tasked with overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In his nomination announcement, Obama said under Massad's watch he's seen banks that benefited from TARP repay nearly every single dollar as well as secure a positive return of nearly $30 billion to the American taxpayer.

The same day as Obama nominated Massad, a coalition of 18 agricultural commodity, livestock and financial groups wrote the President a letter reminding the importance of having someone on the Commission with a strong agricultural background.

However, contrary to what is sought by the agricultural coalition, Massad's resume and experience does not include a deep understanding of agriculture. Instead he specialized in corporate finance and worked on Wall Street prior to his time at the Treasury Department.

Throughout the agency’s existence there have always been Commissioners that intricately understood agricultural futures markets, as well as the underlying physical markets themselves.

The letter explained that Chilton had an extensive agricultural background having worked on agricultural policy issues in the U.S. Senate and USDA before taking a key position at an agricultural trade group. "His departure leaves the agricultural industry without a Commissioner with background in our market sector," the letter said.

The Senate Agriculture Committee is in charge of approving nominees. Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, (D., Mich.), said she looks forward to working with the White House and the Commission as the Senate proceeds with the confirmation process and these nominees fully vetted.

"This is an important time for the CFTC as they finish implementing new rules as part of the Dodd-Frank reforms and continue addressing the challenges of a changing marketplace," she said.

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