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Chairwoman Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing on CFTC Chair and Commissioner Nominee Rostin Behnam

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today released the following opening statement at the hearing to consider the nomination of Rostin Behnam to be Chair and Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Live video of the hearing is available here.

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

I call to order today’s hearing on the nomination of Mr. Rostin Behnam to become Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Congratulations on your nomination, Russ. We also welcome your wife Dinah, and daughters, Nina and Farah,– it's great to have you here today. And a virtual hello to baby Roxana who is at home.

Also welcome to Commissioner Dawn Stump. Thank you for attending today. Your support is a testament to Russ’s ability to work in a bipartisan manner with his fellow Commissioners. 

To say that I am excited about Russ’ nomination is an understatement. I was very fortunate to work with Russ for several years when he handled CFTC issues for our Committee and he provided invaluable counsel on matters related to our derivative markets. I’ve even heard that Russ keeps a poster of Michigan agriculture in his office as a reminder of the important work of this Committee.

The CFTC is critical to ensuring farmers and consumers alike can trust the stability of financial and agricultural markets to hedge their risk.  If confirmed, Chairman Behnam will oversee the CFTC at a time when our markets are undergoing a significant evolution. 

For example, we are seeing an explosive growth of digital assets and other financial technologies. While these new technologies are popular among many consumers, they are particularly vulnerable to fraud and abuse and lack the customer protections built into more traditional financial markets. Many of these digital assets are commodities. If confirmed, Chairman Behnam will need to thread the needle to ensure this industry can continue to innovate, in ways that are smart while posing less risk to consumers.  

I look forward to working with Commissioner Behnam and the Commission in this effort as we consider whether additional legislative authorities are needed. We are also reaching a tipping point in our response to the climate crisis, and Commissioner Behnam has been a leading voice in examining how this crisis can impact our financial markets. Without a doubt, the CFTC is small but mighty.  

Yet, even as its responsibilities continue to expand, its funding has failed to keep pace. It is inexplicable that the CFTC has been underfunded for so many years. This puts our financial system at risk. The CFTC is the only financial regulator that is not supported by user fees, leaving it particularly vulnerable to dips in its budget. I’m disappointed to see that CFTC – unlike other financial regulators – was not funded at the level requested in the President’s budget request.  

I will continue the fight to get adequate funding for the CFTC to carry out its important mission. The CFTC also needs a full slate of Commissioners to accomplish its mission. I look forward to holding a hearing as soon as possible for the two Democratic nominees and seeing a Republican nominee put forward as soon as possible to complete the Commission. 

Commissioner Behnam has support from a broad range of stakeholders across the financial and agriculture sectors. I ask unanimous consent that their letters be entered into the record. 

With that, I’ll turn to my colleague and Ranking Member?Boozman?for his opening comments.