Mike Houghton, a partner with farm business consultants Andersons Midlands, has been selected to receive the inaugural Trehane Fellowship, a £15,000 award from Nuffield Farming Scholarship sponsors The Trehane Trust.
The challenge set for this first award is to identify, over the next nine months, a strategy for the UK dairy industry ‘post-referendum’ and report back findings to the sector. Trehane Trust chairman Wynne Jones says Mr Houghton was selected from a number of high quality applicants to deliver on this brief.
“This is the first of what will become a two-yearly award examining pressing strategic topics within the dairy supply chain,” says Professor Jones.
“Because the current state of the dairy industry persuaded us to launch sooner than anticipated, we were unsure how quickly people would respond. But we have been delighted with the interest – we had over 20 excellent applicants in a very short period of time and it was extremely difficult to narrow the short list to five.”
Professor Jones says Mr Houghton stood out in the interviews because of his clarity of thinking and approach to the topic. “The dairy industry faces significant challenges and we want this Fellowship to yield worthwhile strategies that can be implemented.
“Mr Houghton had the right credentials as his studies are likely to require analytical skills, political understanding and international industry connections to reach a conclusion. This will then be presented at the Trehane Trust annual dinner in 2017.”
Explaining why he applied for the Fellowship, Mr Houghton says he was primarily intrigued by the title. “I believe the subject is much broader than just a post-referendum strategy because there are wider issues, particularly in respect of globalisation,” he says.
“I also believe I am well-placed to undertake the Fellowship having had over 25 years’ experience in the UK dairy sector combined with extensive travelling; I felt the Trehane Fellowship would be a great opportunity to stand back from the industry and try to make a positive impact.”
Mr Houghton explains that while the milk price is finally increasing, the recent and deep recession has highlighted inherent weaknesses, such as volatility and supply imbalances.
“So I’m going to start by identifying the people I should talk to within the UK food chain and in key businesses in Europe; I will also use my contacts in Canada and the USA to find out more about their support systems, in particular Crop Insurance Schemes and Futures Markets.
“I also hope to consult key people within the legal profession and the insurance industry to obtain a different perspective on the topic,” he says.
“I was very pleased to be awarded the Fellowship, particularly given the stiff competition. I hope I can do it justice and that the report has a positive benefit to the UK dairy sector.”