Sandie Howie takes top Scottish accolade

Scottish pig producer Sandy Howie has been presented with the 2014 Ed Rainy Brown Memorial Award. He received the accolade from Katy Rainy Brown at the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) Annual Conference Dinner on January 30.

Ed Rainy Brown was chief executive of the NFU Scotland and SAOS, and both organisations got together to sponsor the award in his memory, following his tragic death in 2003. The award is presented annually to an individual in the farming, forestry, aquaculture or associated industries who has made an exceptional contribution within their specific field.

Mr Howie stepped down as chairman of Scottish Pig Producers last year and an unprecedented number of nominations were received suggesting that his vision and commitment to co-operation in the industry should be recognised. He joined the board of Scottish Pig Producers in March 2000 and was appointed chairman in May 2004. His tenure as chairman coincided with a time of fundamental change in the Scottish pig industry and Mr Howie’s guidance, determination and passion helped to steer the industry through some very difficult times.

During Mr Howie’s chairmanship, Scottish Pig Producers secured a contract with Asda that brought stability to the Scottish pig market, and a joint marketing venture with Progressive Lean Pigs in Northern Ireland saw a huge increase in turnover. He was also instrumental in work with the SSPCA to set up the SSS Pork animal welfare scheme and improving the overall health of the Scottish pig herd through Wholesome Pigs Scotland, which he chaired from 2000. He has also held positions on the NFUS Pigs Committee and SAOS Council.

Tributes to Mr howie’s work on behalf of the co-op members were led by NFUS vice president Allan Bowie who announced the winner.

“Sandy Howie is one of the finest and most successful supporters of co-operation in the Scottish farming sector,” he said. “In his years in the chair at Scottish Pig Producers, he steered members through some turbulent times in the marketplace, navigated the closure of large pig processing sites in Scotland and helped put in place a major retailer deal that had a significant impact on the fortunes of his co-op members.

“The co-operative structure that Sandy has helped to put in place means that we still have a pig sector in Scotland that we can be positive about and proud of.  As a measure of that success, seeing Northern Irish producers also recognising the business benefits from being part of the SPP model should give Sandy a tremendous sense of achievement.”

SAOS chairman Andrew Peddie agreed that Mr Howie’s contribution to the entire Scottish pig industry has been immense.

“He spoke at our SAOS conference a couple of years ago about how co-operation could help farmers create a negotiating position in an industry dominated by plc processors and supermarkets,” he said. “Strategies like these that Sandy helped set up delivered just such a position for SPP members.

“He has never been known to rest on his laurels and constantly seeks improvements and new initiatives to improve the whole supply chain. In a year where the SAOS conference theme is ‘Growth and Resilience through Co-operation’, Sandy provides the perfect example of how to go about this.”

Mr Howie started his pig business with a few sows in a rented pig unit in 1988, before purchasing Baluss, a 200-acre farm near Mintlaw in 1991. Last year he completed a new unit, with state-of-the-art pig management systems, that generates its own electricity through wind and solar power, and maximises the fertiliser benefits of the slurry. This new unit is capable of producing 9,000 finished pigs each year for the Scottish market.

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