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WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators are “seriously considering” restrictions in the wheat futures market being urged by lawmakers concerned over speculation they say has artificially inflated prices, hampering risk management by farmers and grain processors.

A yearlong investigation by the investigative panel of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found that the disconnect between the wheat futures and cash markets can mean higher prices for consumers. Several senators have called on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to restrict the volume of index trading in the wheat futures market on the Chicago Board of Trade.

The agency “is seriously considering this recommendation ... (and) will continue to closely monitor the performance of the wheat futures contract,” CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler told the Senate subcommittee at a hearing Tuesday.

Panel chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said such a review “is badly needed.” Several other members of the committee, representing farm states, voiced concern about the impact of market problems on wheat producers in those states.

But an official of the company that operates the Chicago Board of Trade, where wheat futures are traded, opposed such constraints and disputed the Senate probe’s findings.

Charles Carey, vice chairman of CBOT owner CME Group Inc., said new restrictions on index trading “are more likely to be harmful to the functioning of our markets than helpful.”

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