How's The Monterey Doing, Jack?

Commodities trading: The phrase conjures up bellowing traders, lightning-fast price moves, market capitalism at its most frantic. Well, usually, but not at perhaps the least-known such market in the country, the National Cheese Exchange in Green Bay, Wis. The 20 or so cheeseheads, uh, traders, who meet there every Friday swap cheddar and set wholesale prices for the big cheeses--Kraft, Beatrice, Borden, and others.

That's a lot of clout. But the Cheese Exchange can't match the hurly-burly of other commodities pits. The traders drift in throughout the morning, chat a bit, then scratch prices on a chalkboard. "It's a lot like watching paint dry," remarks Edward Jesse, an agricultural economist from the University of Wisconsin, who has witnessed the so-called action. And when traders complain that prices stink--they've dropped by about 25% so far this year--they're not far from the truth.