The head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Chairman Heath Tarbert, plans to step down in anticipation of the incoming new administration and did not confirm his future plans. As chairman of the regulating body over futures contracts for agricultural commodities, Commissioner Tarbert advanced a final rule for position limits and took an active role in overseeing agricultural markets specifically.
Tarbert started his five-year stint on the commission in July 2019 after serving as a senior official in President Donald Trump’s Treasury Department. The five-member commission spent many years without a full slate of commissioners, but under Tarbert’s direction quickly advanced stalled rules and actions.
Tarbert sponsored the Agricultural Advisory Committee and most recently held meetings in September and April to discuss updates of the Livestock Markets Task Force as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 on agricultural commodity markets.
Under his direction, Tarbert also directed the CFTC to appoint a liaison to USDA for the first time in its 45 years of existence. The original Commodity Exchange Act requires that the USDA appoint a liaison officer for purposes of maintaining a connection between the USDA and the CFTC. “Reciprocating with our own liaison will ensure robust dialogue and continued coordination regarding matters of mutual interest,” Tarbert said in April when announcing the move.
“I am immensely proud of the agency’s accomplishments in our pursuit to be the global standard for sound derivatives regulation. During my tenure, we have held 20 open meetings, more than the previous 7 years combined; we have vigorously protected the integrity of our markets and set numerous enforcement records,” Tarbert says. “We have done all of this with the interests of everyday Americans in mind—including our nation’s farmers and ranchers who rely on derivatives to hedge their risk. With the agenda I laid out last year now complete, the Commission can fully turn its focus to the unwritten future.”
In his resignation statement, Tarbert says together the commissioners advanced 40 rules and 21 proposals, with nearly 90% of them on a bipartisan basis. “The partisan divisions in Washington may run deep, but the Commission’s historically collegial atmosphere has continued uninterrupted.”
Todd Kemp, senior vice president of marketing at the National Grain and Feed Association, says NGFA appreciated Tarbert’s leadership at the CFTC. “During his tenure, he oversaw the implementation of rules that will preserve the critically important hedging and risk-management strategies on which the agricultural industry has relied for years. We deeply appreciate the willingness of CFTC to be open to NGFA-member companies concerns and input throughout the last several years, especially when it comes to finalization of the rule on speculative position limits,” Kemp says.
As a Republican nominee, it is customary for the chairman to step down ahead of his term’s expiration to allow for the incoming party to name a new member to change the 3-2 balance to that of who is in control of the White House. The acting chairman role historically has been filled by a member of the new president’s party. Dan Berkovitz and Rostin Behnam are the two Democrats now serving on the five-member commission and both are seen as candidates for the permanent role.