* CFTC's Chilton calls for 30-day public comment period
* CME slated to start 22-hour grain trade on May 21
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, May 11 (Reuters) - Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said on Friday the agency should institute a 30-day public comment period on a plan by CME Group to increase trading hours for grain futures and options.
The planned shift to nearly around-the-clock trading at CME's Chicago Board of Trade, which dominates agricultural markets, has become the most contentious issue among grain traders as it will keep markets open during key U.S. Department of Agriculture crop reports that often cause sharp swings in futures prices.
"These markets have operated for a long time and have been closed when significant USDA announcements have taken place," Chilton told Reuters. "We could use a little feedback from the industry and the public."
CFTC staff are evaluating whether a comment period is justified.
Two top U.S. grain groups have urged the CFTC to institute 30-day public comment periods on plans for 22-hour trading at the CBOT and rival IntercontinentalExchange.
CFTC staff members told the National Grain and Feed Association, one of the groups that called for comment periods, that the shift to 22-hour trading was a "front-burner issue" at the commission, said Todd Kemp, vice president of marketing and treasurer for the association.
"When the staff used the term 'front burner' with me, I was encouraged by that," Kemp said. "We believe they are taking our petition very seriously."
Time is running short for action.
CME, which currently trades grain futures and options 17 hours a day during the week, plans to increase trading to 22 hours as of May 21.
ICE is slated to launch new grain contracts on Monday with 22-hour trading. The contracts are not expected to attract significant volume.