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24 Apr 2008

Missouri Attorney General Seeks To Halt Hedge Fund ‘Gambling On Grain’

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon is urging the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the federal agency that regulates futures markets, to take action to protect consumers and farmers by reducing the influence of pension funds, hedge funds, and other futures speculators.

"Farming already brings enough uncertainty without the introduction of outside players into the sensitive markets in which farmers sell their goods," said Nixon in a letter to CFTC Chairman Walter Lukken. "I urge the CFTC to step in and reduce the influence of speculators and give farmers the benefit of the bargained-for price on these contracts."

He asked to put a halt to price manipulation, as, "Farmers are not getting the full benefit of their hard work, and consumers are experiencing sticker shock in the cereal aisle," Nixon said. "Much of this is because speculators, who are neither producers nor consumers, are manipulating prices, and they are the primary beneficiaries. Wall Street gambling on grain hasn't had a positive impact on Main Street, Missouri."

According to Nixon's letter, many Missouri farmers sell their commodities on futures contracts, which require them to deliver a quantity of goods on a particular date. These contracts have a fixed price and protect farmers from fluctuations in market prices between planting time and harvest time.

In recent years, however, pension funds, hedge funds, and other speculators have flooded commodities markets by buying futures contracts. Unlike other commodities buyers, speculators use these contracts as a way to game the market and do not actually receive the commodities they contract for.

The CFTC is holding a roundtable discussion on this and other issues today, and Nixon's letter will be included in the agency's record. The CTFC was created by Congress in 1974 as an independent agency with the mandate to regulate commodity futures and option markets in the U.S.

Alex Akesson
Editor for HedgeCo LLC

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