Stewart Houston receives NPA Lifetime Fellowship (updated)
27th Mar 2018 / By Alistair Driver
Stewart Houston, one of the driving forces behind the formation of the NPA and a former chairman, has been awarded the association’s third Lifetime Fellowship.
Presenting the award at the Farmers Club on Monday night, NPA chairman Richard Lister described Stewart as an industry 'icon' who had done a 'fantastic job of representing our industry'.
Stewart was one of the leading members of the British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG), first coming to prominence during a stormy meeting attended by 480 producers at Bishop Burton College in 1998 at the height of the pig price crisis when many pig producers were losing thousands of pounds a week.
With the industry represented at the time by the NFU pigs group and the commercial arm of the BPA, Stewart made a plea for a united front in responding to a crisis affecting the entire sector.
BPISG campaigned vigorously to raise awareness of the plight of the industry in the media and to get a better deal from retailers and Government.
Its activities led to the formation of the NPA and, soon after, BPEX, to provide a specialist pig body for levy payers who had become disillusioned with how they were being treated by the Meat and Livestock Commission.
Stewart went on to play a major role on the NPA, serving as its chairman and an executive director, as well as chairing BPEX from 2003 until 2015. He served as a director until 2015 and is currently a member of the Food Standards Agency board and the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England since AHWBE. He is also a former David Black Award winner.
He becomes the third person to receive the NPA’s top honour after its first chairman, the late John Godfrey, and Digby Scott, the ‘Voice of the Pig Industry’.
Speaking at a Producer Group dinner, Richard said Stewart had come a long way from the 'quiet shy chap from the North East in 1998' to the 'hugely influential canny operator' he is now.
"Stewart is an icon. He has been a geat influence on many people in this room and it is entirely appropriate that we should recognise his contribution officially by awarding him a Lifetime Fellowship Award.
"Stewart has put his heart and soul into representing the pig industry and it has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside him and get his wise counsel."
Stewart said he was 'deeply honoured' to receive the award and painted a bright picture for the pig sector as Brexit looms.
"I envy the new Producer Group because, even though there’s an awful lot talked about Brexit and how it is all going to go pear shaped, I think there is a huge opportunity in the Defra Future Food and Farming programme to design something that is going to put some money into the indusry to improve the health and welfare of livestock. We need to get bought into that.
"You have had different difficulties to deal with, and it has often been about trying to come out of negativity. This is all positivity. You have got a real opportunity there - take it please.
"Thanks ever so much for this - it is brilliant. Thank-you."
There were also presentations for Mick Sloyan, who steps down from his role as AHDB Pork strategy director in the summer, former NFU president Meurig Raymond and former LIPs chair Sue Woodall in appreciation for their work with the NPA and services to the industry.
Mr Raymond, who revealed how he began his farming career with pigs, reiterated Stewart's comments about the opportunities for the pig sector from Brexit and praised the work of the NPA.
Mr Sloyan, who Richard also described as an 'icon' with 'immense passion for and encyclopaedic knowledge of the pig sector', also recalled the Bishop Burton meeting.
"What came out of that was people with enough vision to get together and say: "We are going to be better working together, rather than fighting apart." As a consequence of that, the NPA was born and it has done some fantastic things.
"We are now back to producing as much pigmeat as we did before the crash came and that is a big testament to what the NPA and the wider industry has done."
Oxfordshire farmer Charlie Allen, who had been on PG since its inception until he stepped down at the February elections, and Suffolk producer Andrew Houston were recognised for their service on PG.