The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) decision to block JBS SA's acquisition of National Beef Packing (NBP) delighted opponents of further consolidation in beef processing. But, in “DOJ wants four packers,” on page 8, Contributing Editor Steve Kay comments on how DOJ's arguments seem to indicate its lack of understanding on how supply and demand works, how packers operate and what impacts their profits.

There's little doubt the economy is in a recession that will be felt in all U.S. economic sectors for some time, says “Market Advisor” columnist Harlan Hughes. That said, however, he believes agriculture's aggregate balance sheet is very favorable. In “Marketing in the new conditions,” page 10, Hughes provides some strategies for navigating current conditions. Retaining ownership of calves past weaning is one.

With all the negative news emanating out of the financial markets of late, one trembles to open a newspaper, much less a personal investment statement, these days. But experts say the agricultural sector is, relatively speaking, in a much better position than the general economy. In “Credit Crunch,” on page 18, Editor Joe Roybal talks with some experts on what the credit crisis means for cattle producers.

“Is the sky falling, or the sun rising?” BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly Contributing Editor Troy Marshall posits in his commentary on page 23. With a constant barrage of bad economic news and whipsawing volatility in prices, it's easy to get pessimistic, Marshall says. But he points out that the fundamentals of our business are actually very good. “Put me in the optimist's column,” he says.

If there's one certainty regarding mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL), Senior Editor Burt Rutherford says it is that nothing is yet certain. In “COOL Cometh,” on page 32, he reports on the confusion created by the interim rule and the answers that may be forthcoming as USDA internally circulates a draft of the final rule that is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Christmas Eve.

The angst that hit the seedstock sector this fall upon news that a lethal genetic defect had been isolated in one of history's most used Angus sires bordered on hysteria. In “Dealing With Curly Calf,” on page 36, Contributing Editor Wes Ishmael details the saga of Arthrogryposis Multiplex, more informally known as Curly Calf Syndrome, and how painstaking science and a calm response ameliorated the situation.