Hard Part for Financial Reg Reform Now Begins

July 20, 2010 07:00 PM

Roger Bernard, Farm Journal Policy & Washington Editor

Backs have been slapped. Hands have been shaken. Credit has been given or taken, depending on your perspective relative to the financial regulatory reform package. That mostly sums up the scene as President Barack Obama today signed the sweeping bill into law at a Washington ceremony.

And compared to the process that awaits government bureaucrats and appointed officials, the easy part may well have been getting the sweeping legislation pushed through Congress. Because now officials in 10 agencies -- including at least one new one created by the law to protect consumers -- will have to wade through the 2,300-page bill and undertake the task of implementing the law.

That won't be an easy task for those in government to implement the law as Congress intended. That's often where "glitches" pop up -- those implementing the law have a different take than Congress did when they wrote the law.

And agriculture has the first-hand knowledge of how things can work via the implementation process that happens with every omnibus farm bill. Those implementing what Congress wrote can find themselves at odds with what House and Senate members intended, and those in Congress will let the administration know if they think the rule-making process is headed in the wrong direction.

One of the key agencies in this process will be the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the agency who will shoulder considerable responsibility in terms of the provisions in the bill relative derivatives trade. How they proceed will have a big impact on whether the use of derivatives is impacted.

And concern over derivatives was one of the sticking points in the process of getting the bill through Congress. And those concerns now spill into the implementation process in that there are concerns even though those that use derivatives for legitimate business purposes are to be exempted from the tightened requirements may still find these products to be too costly or no longer available. Here's a link to read more on the concerns over what could happen to derivatives and their use by agriculture.

Another major issue is numbers. The legislation adds to the workload of agencies and creates the new consumer protection agency as well. The key is going to be building up numbers to implement the package. Already, the CFTC wants $45 million to add staff for operating under the new law.

So now that the bill is signed into law amid smiles, handshakes and applause, the real hard work begins now for the financial reg reform legislation. And the process of implementation won't be over soon. Just think of the 2008 Farm Bill where provisions are still in the implementation phase and some are even still in the regulatory proposal phase.

And perhaps most telling that this process won't be easy: President Obama said that "adjustments" may be needed as the process unfolds. That could be one of the bigger understatements this president has made.


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