As quoted in Isthmus' cover story last week, author Michael Pollan resents accusations that he's blaming farmers for the nation's flawed food policies: "That's just rhetoric. I'm blaming the system. I'm blaming a set of incentives. A system in which many farmers really feel trapped."
Last Thursday the State Journal ran a letter to the editor headlined "Beware of Pollan's Attack on Farmers." In fact, the published letter never accuses Pollan of attacking farmers; it merely defends farmers while casting aspersions on Pollan's unspecified "agenda."
State Journal editorial page editor Scott Milfred says the letter was shortened from the original and given a head that fit the writer's point: "I don't think the headline was a stretch."
Pollan, now in Madison for a series of events (Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Kohl Center, Sept. 25 at 3:30 p.m. at the Wisconsin Union Theater, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. on the Capitol Square), disagrees: "The headline on that letter is really unfair, to the writer and to me. Someone's trying to stir the pot, obviously. This is the Farm Bureau line and they're parroting it."
The State Journal followed this with an attack (yep, that's the right word) on Pollan by Bill Bruins, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, claiming, among other things, that "Pollan's plan would starve much of the world." In fact, Pollan is opposed to mass starvation. (The Cap Times also ran Bruins' column, but with a spirited editorial rebuttal.)
Interestingly, the UW changed the format of Friday's event. Originally a discussion with Pollan moderated by Steve Paulson of Wisconsin Public Radio, it's now a panel discussion with others, presumably to allow more opportunity for "the other side" to be heard.