AH, NATURE'S MOST NEARLY perfect contract. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and New York's Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exchange are seeking Washington's approval for competing futures contracts on fluid milk. Until now, milk prices had little need for hedging--or potential for speculation profit. Federal supports and other regs maintain a price floor. But budget-cutting may remove all this. So some dairy companies, including giant co-op Land O'Lakes, back milk futures.

Others in dairyland, however, are sour on the notion. "There's not a need," contends Howard Dean, CEO of Dean Foods, the No.1 U.S. milk processor. Unlike soybeans, milk cannot be stored more than a few days. Don't expect a long-lasting New York-Chicago milk-futures bout. In past head-to-head competitions, most business went to one exchange.

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