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Economist: Don’t Blame Oprah

February 20, 1998

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) _ An economic expert testified today that factors such as drought, high corn prices and weak exports had far more impact on a cattle market slump than anything said on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show.

``This (declining market) was already happening in response to a drop in consumption in Southeast Asia ... not regarding anything to do with what happened on this show,″ said Marvin Hayenga, an Iowa State University agricultural economics professor.

A group of Texas cattlemen claim that a market plunge following Ms. Winfrey’s April 1996 talk show on ``dangerous foods″ cost them $12 million. They’re suing her, her production company and vegetarian activist guest Howard Lyman.

Part of the show centered on mad-cow disease, which has stricken British herds since the 1980s. A related strain of a similar human ailment is suspected of killing 23 people there.

No cases of mad-cow disease have been reported in the United States.

In his second day on the stand, Hayenga, a defense witness, said cattle prices were dropping before the show even aired.

Hayenga also targeted cattleman Paul Engler’s assertion he lost more than $4 million by selling cattle on the futures market because he was spooked by the episode.

Hayenga testified Engler waited too long after the show _ two weeks or more _ to ``hedge″ by selling futures.

``If the show is cause for this particular action in the futures market, in my view it needs to be much more immediate,″ Hayenga said.

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