On the Farm and in Committee

May 15, 2015
EC from DC

On the Farm and in Committee


Congressman Cleaver joins Commissioner Bowen at Garrett Riekhof’s
Lafayette County farm


When I was a child growing up in Texas, I made many fond memories helping out my grandparents on their nearby farms. This is just one of many reasons I enjoy visiting with my constituents In Ray, Saline, Lafayette and Clay Counties, and hearing about the issues that are important to them.

This week, I was honored to host Commissioner Sharon Bowen of the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in the Fifth District. As you may know, the mission of the CFTC is to foster open, transparent, competitive, and financially sound markets, to avoid systemic risk, and to protect the market users and their funds, consumers, and the public from fraud, manipulation, and abusive practices related to derivatives and other products that are subject to the Commodity Exchange Act. The CFTC seeks various abuses in the derivatives market and works to ensure the protection of customer funds.

This complex work is more important than ever, as we continue to climb out of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The crisis caused incalculable, widespread human suffering that impacted millions of Americans. We continue to feel the effects to this day. The crisis ravaged the economy, costing more than $13 trillion or about $120,000 for every U.S. household.

  • Tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs as the number of unemployed climbed to 14.7 million over the course of the recession. The number of underemployed and discouraged job seekers who gave up work rose to 12 million, a 94 percent increase.
  • Median family income fell to $45,800 in 2010 from $49,600 in 2007.
  • The stock market fell more than 50 percent in just 18 months, from October 2007 to March 2009.
  • Home prices across the nation fell about 29 percent from their peak in April 2006 until the end of the recession in June 2009.
  • The poverty rate steadily rose 2.5 percentage points from 2007 to 2012, with 46.5 million people in poverty in 2012.

Listening intently.

These aren’t just numbers. They translate to less savings for college and retirement, bankrupt businesses, lost homes, and true, tragic human suffering that I struggle to even put into words. After the worst of the crisis subsided, it became clear that a massive reform of our nation's financial system was necessary to reset the economy and prevent a future crisis. In the aftermath of the crisis – caused in part by the unregulated swaps market – President Obama and Congress charged the CFTC with reforming this market. The agency now also has regulatory oversight of the over $400 trillion swaps market, which is about a dozen times the size of the futures market. That was but one part of the many changes included in Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Dodd-Frank provided accountability and transparency, and it created a stable financial system essential to grow the economy and create jobs. This week in the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, we held a hearing on Dodd-Frank. Unlike some of my colleagues, I believe this law goes a long way toward restoring responsibility and accountability in our financial system. Now let me share with you a secret: no person is perfect, and no law or proposal is perfect either. So while I voted for it, and I supported it, and I want to protect it, I have an open mind about it. And I have watched the way it and other laws have been implemented, and when and where I have taken issue with it, I have taken initiative. I will continue to do so.

Commissioner Bowen was gracious enough to be the guest speaker at a meeting of my Agriculture Advisory Committee. The Commissioner had a productive meeting with row crop, hog and beef producers from Ray, Lafayette, Saline and Jackson counties.

Two main concerns the committee brought to the Commissioner’s attention were the issues of accurate crop reporting and manipulation of electronic trading. Commissioner Bowen assured the committee that the CFTC continues to make crop reporting accurate and fair. Manipulation of electronic trading is an issue the CFTC does address but underfunding of the commission does limit their ability to monitor the trading as well as they would like. Commissioner Bowen and I also toured the fourth generation farm of a local Lafayette County family after the meeting.