WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today released the following opening statement at the nomination hearing to consider Dan Michael Berkovitz to serve as a Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and James E. Hubbard to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is the first time we have been back in this room since we passed our bipartisan Farm Bill. Under your leadership, we moved quickly to pass it through the full Senate on a historic bipartisan vote of 86-11.
I’m glad we are here to consider two nominees for the USDA and CFTC. Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Berkovitz, congratulations to you both and welcome to your families here today. While the two of you will serve in vastly different roles within the government – both of you will serve in important positions that affect the lives of many.
Mr. Hubbard, as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at USDA, you would oversee the U.S. Forest Service. You have had a long and distinguished career working on forestry issues at both the state and federal level.
As the Forest Service once again faces a challenging wildfire season, we need strong leadership at the department now more than ever. We’ve seen how climate change has exacerbated drought and insect infestations in our forests, while more and more people are building homes in forested areas. There is no silver bullet to stopping modern-day megafires. But the agency must do everything it can to protect lives and property during wildfires.
Our Committee has taken an active interest in this topic. In the recently passed Omnibus, Congress finally fixed the longstanding issue of the Forest Service’s broken budget. The Senate Farm Bill’s forestry provisions build on the Omnibus to encourage science-based and collaborative restoration of our national forest lands.
Beyond suppressing wildfires, the Forest Service also manages land for hunting and fishing, timber harvesting, and wilderness preservation, among other things. Our public forest lands help drive an outdoor recreation industry that contributes nearly $1 trillion of economic benefit annually.
It also creates thousands of jobs across the country and in my home state of Michigan. Mr. Hubbard, it will be up to you to continue to foster that growing segment of our economy.
Finally, and very importantly, right now we need strong leadership to reverse the culture of sexual misconduct that has unfortunately plagued the Forest Service for decades. Harassment and misconduct are not acceptable.
The Forest Service must do a better job of establishing a culture where sexual misconduct is not tolerated, where accusations are investigated thoroughly and properly, and where offenders are held accountable.
Mr. Hubbard, if confirmed, you would lead the effort to right the ship at the Forest Service on sexual misconduct matters. I look forward to hearing how you will oversee the agency and demand accountability on this very important issue.
Mr. Berkovitz, you have been nominated for an important position as well. Farmers, manufacturers, and consumers all rely on our futures and swaps markets to provide stability and certainty. And the CFTC plays a critical role to ensure these markets are free of fraud and abusive practices.
Mr. Berkovitz, you have a tremendous amount of experience and a deep understanding of agricultural concerns. As General Counsel at the CFTC, you helped implement many reforms after the devastating financial crisis. More recently, while in the private sector, you have seen how market participants have applied those rules.
It is critical that we never return to the risky behaviors that caused the Great Recession. Millions of hard-working Americans faced job losses and financial ruin through no fault of their own.
The CFTC must continue its progress to complete the rulemakings under the Dodd-Frank Act. For instance, we need movement on the long-delayed position limits rule so that market participants have the clarity they need.
The CFTC also must be thoughtful in how it considers changes to its existing rules, so that customers remain protected and our markets stay strong.
Thank you again to both of you for being here. If confirmed, your work and leadership will have a significant impact on our forests, our markets, and people all around the country.