The first time I encountered Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons was in 1995 when I interviewed her for Radio Liberty. She was complaining about what she called New Zealand's biggest export, and it wasn't lamb, wine or onions. It was dirt.
She said soil erosion, caused by intense farming, meant too much of New Zealand was going offshore. No, I didn't get it either, but I did admire her commitment to the argument and willingness to front.
Sadly, the Greens' economic thinking is just as wonky more than a decade later. Genuine they may be, and pleasant people down to the last wimmin, but calling on Fonterra to have a cheaper pricing structure for dairy products sold in New Zealand shows how little thought goes into some of their policies.
The Greens claim a product as basic as milk should be sold at a price most New Zealanders can afford. This country produces so much milk only 4 per cent is sold domestically, so the high prices are driven by international pricing.
Fitzsimons seemed to base this policy on a letter she read published in a newspaper, purporting to be from a dairy farmer, saying farmers would happily sell their milk cheaper in New Zealand.
Well, what price is affordable? Why not just give it away?
She called on Fonterra to be a "good Kiwi company" and give back some of what it has received, namely "great climate, cheap energy and hard-working farmers who have allowed you to become so successful".
If you follow the Greens' thinking, all one must do to accumulate a multimillion-dollar turnover is be around long enough and you'll be allowed to be successful.
One thing she did have right was the bit about hard-working farmers.
I was brought up on a sheep and cattle farm and, to me, dairying must be one of the most unglamorous ways to make a living. To put it bluntly, cows can poop through the eye of a needle, and they do, frequently, particularly when someone is close. The milking can't be postponed. You have to crawl out of bed before sparrow's, every day.
Cows have no respect for trees, fences, dogs, or even farmers if they get between a heifer and her calf. I don't care how much profit dairy farmers make, they deserve every cent and more. Frankly, I'd rather go back to cleaning motels.
And it's not as if milk's good for you. In fact, you'd think the Greens, with all their bossiness about what we should or shouldn't eat, would be pleased to see milk priced off the shopping list. Shouldn't they be ordering us into soy lattes, or rice milkshakes?
I suspect the Greens just wanted to have another whack at New Zealand farmers. To deflect this very criticism, Fitzsimons' speechwriters wisely tossed a back-handed compliment to hard-working farmers, but last Sunday when this policy was aired the cockies in our area were unimpressed.
They were almost as antsy as when Russel Norman went around the countryside photographing cows peeing and pooing in rivers so his party could blame farmers yet again for polluting the countryside.
The farmers could argue back that, unlike the city-dwelling Green Party members, they don't pee and poo into concrete drains, or cover everything with bitumen then drive over it.
Norman should have a chat with Professor Jacqueline Rowarth, director of Massey Agriculture, an English-born voice of sanity who justifiably was honoured in the Queen's Birthday list.
Stop blaming farmers for our environmental woes, Rowarth says repeatedly, because it's political, short-sighted, and will impact adversely on the consumer further down the track.
Which brings us back to the price of milk. It's harder each year for farmers to give us our primary products. Dairy prices are not based solely on the export market. They are a result of the enormous costs which have been shovelled on to farmers all over the country, not just those in the dairy industry. It now takes twice as long to build a shed because of consents and inspections.
Employment legislation changes - supported by the Greens - impact adversely on rural employment, thus affecting rural townships, communities and schools.
When the world is crying out for more food, wouldn't it be timely for New Zealanders to stop putting the gumboot into farmers and grab the opportunity to feed the world, enriching our own citizens in the process?
But hey, why have vision when it's easier to get instant applause at a party conference by dog-whistling up cheap and shallow policies advocating cheap milk for all.By Deborah Coddington Email Deborah