Economist: Don't Blame Oprah
Feb. 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.