WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, from the hearing to consider of the nominations of Basil Gooden to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Summer K. Mersinger to serve as a Commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).  

Good morning. Today we meet to hear from Dr. Basil Gooden, President Biden’s nominee to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development, and the Honorable Summer Mersinger, who has been renominated as a CFTC Commissioner. I want to thank you both for meeting with us today.

As the son of a farmer, with roots in rural Buckingham County, Virginia, Dr. Gooden possesses a passion for rural communities that has underpinned his distinguished career. 

When he and I spoke earlier this week in my office, he told me a story of his father dropping him off as a freshman at Virginia Tech and telling him not to return home to the farm. Instead, his father recommended he go where the jobs and opportunity exist. It is understandable that comments like these would hit hard for a young man leaving home for the first time.

Dr. Gooden draws upon these experiences in his current role as Director of State Rural Development Operations at USDA.

Throughout his career, Dr. Gooden has shown a willingness to work across party lines in the state of Virginia, having served under both Republican and Democrat governors, most notably as the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the State of Virginia.  

If confirmed, Dr. Gooden will be charged with the critical mission of improving the economy and quality of life in rural America through three agencies: the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Housing Service and the Rural Business-Cooperative Service. 

Much of rural America lacks basic necessities such as clean drinking water, sanitation, broadband, healthcare and childcare, among others.

Over the last decade, population decline has hit rural communities hard, compounding the difficulty of ensuring access to many of these necessary services. As residents leave for urban and suburban areas, municipalities lose access to tax dollars needed to improve water and electric infrastructure. Cooperatives are asked to do more with less, while maintaining affordable rates. 

Dr. Gooden, I trust you will draw upon your previous experiences and familiarity with rural Virginia to represent rural Americans well and work tirelessly to advance their interests.

Turning to Commissioner Mersinger, she has served as a CFTC Commissioner since 2022, and before that served in other roles at the agency. That experience, along with her agricultural background, makes her especially qualified for this role. I especially enjoyed her visit to Arkansas last year, where she got to meet with various Arkansas agriculture stakeholders.

Through a pragmatic, principles-based approach, the CFTC has built and implemented constructive, workable regulatory frameworks for markets to function efficiently. Derivatives contracts serve as resilient risk management tools because the CFTC implements comprehensive rules, diligently polices the cash and derivative commodity markets, and protects market participants.

As sponsor of the CFTC’s Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee, Commissioner Mersinger has championed resiliency of agricultural and energy markets, which are essential risk management and price discovery tools for those who feed and clothe us, and who provide reliable energy sources necessary to power our daily lives. 

Commissioner Mersinger has also led the call for regulators to deliver clear guidance in a timely manner, in order to reduce risk. I’ve appreciated your perspective on “no-action relief” and your recognition that while no-action relief is a good thing, extending it over and over again without fixing a broken rule creates risk and uncertainty. 

I applaud Commissioner Mersinger for calling to codify repeatedly extended no-action relief, which will ultimately reduce uncertainty. I also hope that when the agency is going to extend no-action relief, it makes that decision sooner rather than later. Waiting until the last-minute to extend relief leaves market participants guessing and creates risk, especially in times of volatility.

Finally, Commissioner Mersinger has also appropriately recognized the global nature of derivatives markets and the importance of open markets. She appreciates that barriers to market access reduce liquidity, increase hedging costs, and weaken market resiliency.

Commissioner Mersinger is a champion for agriculture end-users and ensuring the derivatives markets continue to serve as a viable risk management tool for this important constituency. I look forward to supporting her nomination. 

In closing, I am glad we can hold this hearing today and I look forward to getting you two confirmed soon. 

With that, I yield back.