Four nominees to be commissioners of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission were warmly received Wednesday by the Senate Ag Committee, where members are eager to fill four vacancies in a five-member board.

The all-female panel of nominees includes Christy Goldsmith Romero, a special inspector general for the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); Kristin Johnson, a law professor at Emory University; Summer Mersinger, the chief of staff to current CFTC Commissioner Dawn Stump; and Caroline Pham, a managing director at Citi Bank. CFTC, which regulates U.S. derivatives markets, has three vacant seats -- soon to increase to four with Stump stepping down in April.

“The CFTC has gone far too long without its full complement of commissioners,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chair of the Ag Committee. “Today’s hearing for two Democrats and two Republicans is an important step toward getting this financial watchdog back to its full capacity.”

Stabenow began the questioning by asking nominees whether they believe there is sufficient regulatory oversight of the spot digital asset commodities, which was met with a resounding “no.” However, on whether the CFTC is well-positioned to regulate the market, all nominees answered “yes.”

Asked by Stabenow if they would support CFTC looking further into risks posed by climate change, all nominees agreed they would. Johnson and Mersinger cited ag specific concerns in the form of managing severe weather, which is poised to become more frequent as the climate changes.

Several senators, including Ranking Member Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., raised additional ag concerns.

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Boozman relayed comments from ag interests contending the agency has become overly reliant on enforcement. He asked the group if they would commit to “proactively fix issues when violations are inadvertent, largely immaterial, and not automatically default to issuing fines and other penalties.”

Johnson, responding to Boozman, said she “strongly believes in robust enforcement, but can imagine balancing that with ensuring or encouraging cultures of compliance.”

Thune said South Dakota ranchers are concerned about “market volatility and intentional market manipulation,” in the cattle market, and asked Mersinger what she would do to protect the viability of the market.

Mersinger said transparency is critical to ensuring cattle markets stay fair.

“The most important thing here is transparency and the best way to ensure that is through constant communication, and that’s with the producers, the staff at CFTC and the exchanges as well,” Mersinger said. “At the end of the day, we need these markets to work in their role as price-setting and risk management tools.”

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Boozman said he hopes to see the nominees be confirmed quickly, and that the hearing went “very, very well.”

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