A "letter to the editor” signed by 68 Wisconsin dairies asserting their commitment to producing quality food, protecting the environment and supporting local communities was sent this week to every daily and weekly newspaper in the state.
The letter (http://www.widba.com/news_detail.php?id=61), sent through the Dairy Business Association (DBA) of Wisconsin, lets consumers know the state's dairy producers take their obligations seriously, says Laurie Fischer, DBA's executive director.
Fischer says she has received 25 responses to date from various publications, and she will be tracking which ones publish the letter.
DBA's letter was also meant to correct a damaging article that appeared Sept. 17 in The New York Times. (Read the article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/us/18dairy.html?hp.) That article, "Health Ills Abound as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells,” cast Wisconsin dairies in an unflattering light.
"We take it seriously when people allege that we don't care,” Fischer says.
An appearance tonight and tomorrow by author Michael Pollan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison also spurred the DBA letter, Fischer says. Pollan will discuss his book, "In Defense of Food,” which was chosen for the UW's new common-reading program, "Go Big Read.” In both "In Defense of Food” and his earlier bestseller, "The Omnivore's Dilemma,” Pollan criticizes modern American farming practices. DBA hopes its letter will help the dairy industry share its side of the story.
A group of farmers will attend tonight's appearance at the university's Kohl Center "in a show of solidarity” to show their support for agriculture.
Wisconsin dairy producer John Vrieze, third-generation owner of Vrieze Farms Inc., will join Pollen and others in a panel Friday to discuss "In Defense of Food.” (Learn more at: http://www.news.wisc.edu/17104.)
Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at email@example.com.