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How BPISG was formed
By Alistair Driver
Stewart Houston, whose family enterprise sells weaners from 450 sows and pig equipment, received a cheque from Ripon market for just 25 percent of the value he had received a year earlier for his gilt sows.
Then, instead of receiving sympathy for his plight from a farming neighbour he was told to stop whingeing and do something about it like the cattlemen had been doing.
Soon after that he received a phone call from a Scottish pig producer who asked if anything was happening in England in terms of a producer response to the crisis.
"I said I hadn't got time to do anything — and then within 24 hours I had Bishop Burton organised," said Mr Houston, referring to the meeting in July at Bishop Burton College, Beverley, that spawned the British Pig Industry Support Group.
"There had been a pressure building up that was telling me that I had to do something, although I did not know what that something was. I had no idea if 50, 100, or how many, would turn up. But we got 500 on the night and the BPISG was born."
BPISG has since been driven by a core of central characters, based around Yorkshire and the east of the country, including Mr Houston,
NPA was formed as the British pig industry's single voice in a turbulent era of market failure, rampant disease, retailer duplicity, political infamy and a dysfunctional levy-board. It had a faltering first year, but these days a top-flight management team is in place and NPA continues to change the face of the British pig industry for the better.
"They don't know what frustration is, I can tell you. We are targeting them as much as we are targeting other stores, but Morrisons seem to have glaring double standards. The demonstrations will continue" — Richard Lister, Yorkshire Post, 1999.
'Levy-board multi-species structure doesn't provide value for money'
By Alistair Driver
Petitions from producers representing well over, half of the United Kingdom pig herd were handed to the Government as part of its five-yearly review of the Meat and Livestock Commission. The group, with the backing of the British Pig Association and National Farmers Union, has also commissioned an £18,000 study into the way forward for the British pig industry.
The group is optimistic that the support it has gained from within the industry and the arguments it has put forward will help to bring about fundamental change.
"We do not believe that the current MLC multi-species structure provides sufficient representation for the pig industry or value for money for the levy-payer," said Mr Houston. "We would like to see the MLC pig strategy council become a more autonomous body." He believes that an organisation that thinks "pig all day, every day", will provide more focused marketing for the industry.
The other part of the "one-voice" campaign is the desire for stronger and more unified political representation. As a member of both the BPA (he is northern region chairman) and the NFU, he believes that time, energy and resources would be better utilised in just one body than the current structure that inevitably creates overlap.
is starting to work
The effects of the BPISG campaign have been dramatic, with most supermarkets promising they will source pigmeat for their own-brand products that match the United Kingdom specification.
is getting results
"The real driving force for change is the people who have come on the rallies, demonstrated outside stores and signed the petition, and partly as a consequence of this prices are now rising again" — Stewart Houston, press report, 1999.
Producer demos spread
"Initially events, such as large scale demonstrations in Immingham and Blackpool, were organised centrally by the group, but in recent months farmers have taken more responsibility on themselves and there are now a growing number of local demonstrations all around the country" — press report, 1999.