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Dr Keith Howe

Senior Research Fellow


01392 723838

Lazenby House G.11

Positions: Formerly Senior Lecturer in Agricultural Economics, School of Business and Economics. Current internal academic: Also affiliated to Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute, Business School, and South West Partnership for Environment and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP). External academic: Honorary Senior Research Fellow (Pathobiology and Population Sciences), Royal Veterinary College, University of London, 2011-21; Programme Board Member, journal 'Wieś i Rolnictwo' (Village and Agriculture), Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development, Polish Academy of Sciences; Founder member, International Society for Economics and Social Sciences of Animal Health, and Management Committee member 2017 - 2019 ; Associate Examiner to the University of London Board of Examiners in MSc and Postgraduate Diplomas in Livestock Health and Production, and in Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health. Non-academic: Vice-chairman trustee, Exmoor Society; Council member, New Forest Association; Vice-chairman, European Movement (Devon Branch).

Distinctions: Former President of the Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, made Life Member in 2008; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (honoris causa), Royal Veterinary College, 2016, in recognition of an outstanding contribution to animal health and welfare, and particularly to the use of economics in animal health; Award for Excellence 2018, Agricultural Economics Society, for outstanding contribution to teaching and public policy.

Research: Exclusively from 2008-11, co-supervision with Katharina Stärk, Professor of Veterinary Public Health Policy, Royal Veterinary College, University of London, project funded by the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office entitled ‘Economic assessment of surveillance programmes as part of the national control plan of Switzerland’. Most recent years; independent research in economics of animal health; interests extended to natural capital issues in National Parks, especially Exmoor and the New Forest, and implications of Brexit for agriculture and rural environmental policy.

Teaching: Contributes to the economics module for MSc programmes in Veterinary Epidemiology and One Health at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London; also taught economics to students of veterinary and related sciences at the Universities of Copenhagen, Liverpool, and Surrey (ongoing); current teaching at University of Exeter is on POLM073: Political Economy of Food and Agriculture; in the past, taught at Exeter University and universities in Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, on the economic aspects of European integration; European agricultural and rural policies; economics of transition in central and eastern Europe.

Public policy: For over a decade, worked as a consultant to the Integration Policy Directorate, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Bulgaria (EU PHARE programme); for four years, Co-ordinator for the EU Joint European Project ‘AGFED’ – Agricultural and Food Economics Development in Ukraine; periodically contributes economics expertise in review of EU and UK projects in the field of animal health and welfare. Regularly contributes articles to Exmoor Review and Forest Matters (New Forest Association) aimed at promoting economic understanding to non-specialists; also assisted in developing ‘Exmoor’s Ambition’ (Exmoor National Park Authority, Exmoor Hill Farming Network) and ‘Towards a Natural Capital Asset Register’ (Rural Focus Ltd for Exmoor Society), publications targeted at influencing post-Brexit policies for farming and the natural environment in the uplands.




Research group links

Research interests

The purpose of applied economic analysis is to generate information for decision-makers whose task is to solve real world problems and, specifically, problems that have implications for the efficient allocation and use of scarce resources.

The analyst therefore has two essential responsibilities; first, to be rigorous and impartial in the application of economic logic and techniques employed that underpin the analysis; second, and especially if the results potentially are to have impact, to communicate and interpret the methodology and results in language comprehensible to non-economists.

The following list is of publications since 2008 that aimed to respect those two essential qualities. All are outcomes of explicitly problem-oriented research, and illustrate work undertaken on behalf of a wide spectrum of national and international policy-makers, government and non-governmental agencies, pressure groups, and students, researchers and policy-makers from the broad field of veterinary sciences and epidemiology. 


'Transforming Rural Life in Poland: Surveys of Policy Issues and Evidence', Studies and Monographs No. 1, Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development, Polish Academy of Science, 2008, 131pp, (Editor)

'Review of the Evidence from Other Research', in Investigation of the Longer-term Effects on Farm Businesses of a bTB Breakdown, Draft Final Report for Defra Project SE3120 (author Martin Turner), October 2008, pp20-32 

‘Conceptualising the technical relationship of animal disease surveillance to intervention and mitigation as a basis for economic analysis,’ BMC Health Services Research, 2011, 11:225, (with B. Häsler and K.D.C. Stärk)

‘Economic evaluation of the surveillance and intervention programme for bluetongue virus serotype 8 in Switzerland’, Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 2012; 103: 93-111 (with B. Häsler, E. Di Labio, H. Schwermer and K.D.C. Stärk)

‘A qualitative approach to measure the effectiveness of active avian influenza virus surveillance with respect to its cost: A case study from Switzerland’. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 2012; 105: 209-222, doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2011.12.010. (with B. Häsler, R. Hauser, and K.D.C. Stärk.)

‘An economic model to evaluate the mitigation programme for bovine viral diarrhoea in Switzerland’. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 2012; 106: 162-173, doi:10.1016/j. prevetmed. 2012.01.022. (with B. Häsler, P. Presi and K.D.C. Stärk)

‘Economic principles for resource allocation decisions at national level to mitigate the effects of disease in farm animal populations’. Epidemiology and Infection, 2013; 141 (1): 91-101, B. Häsler and K.D.C. Stärk)

‘Evaluating the role of surveillance in national policies for animal health’. Eurochoices, 11:2, 2012 (with B. Häsler)

‘Surveillance and intervention expenditure: substitution or complementarity between different types of policy’, in Livestock Disease Policies: Building Bridges Between Science and Economics, OECD, Paris, 2013, 19 pages (with B. Häsler, J. Rushton K.D.C. Stärk)

‘A framework for categorization of the economic impacts of outbreaks of highly contagious livestock diseases’. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, DOI: 10.1111/tbed.12286, 2014 (with H.W. Saatkamp and M.C.M. Mourits)

'Exmoor Farming in a Changing Policy Environment', Exmoor Review, Vol. 56, 2015, pp79-81

‘Discovering Exmoor – The Relationship of People to Place’, Exmoor Review, Vol. 56, 2015, pp84-86

‘Visit Exmoor – New Perspectives for Changing Times’, Exmoor Review, Vol. 57, 2016, pp61-63

Review of Graham Bathe ‘Common Land’, Open Spaces Society, Pitkin, in New Forest Association Newsletter, No. 23, Spring 2016, pp22-23

‘Is There a Future for the Small Family Farm in the UK?’. A Report to the Prince’s Countryside Fund, Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute, University of Exeter, June 2016, 100 pages (with Michael Winter, Matt Lobley, Hannah Chiswell, Tim Wilkinson and Paul Wilson)

Review of Graham Bathe ‘Village Greens’, Open Spaces Society, Pitkin, in Forest Matters, Issue No. 1, Autumn/Winter 2016, page 16

‘Exmoor’s Future Landscapes – Points of View,’ Exmoor Review, Vol. 58, 2017, pp51-60

‘A Snapshot of Exmoor Farming, 2014-15 and the Future,’ Exmoor Review, Vol. 58, 2017, pp90-94 (with John Wibberley)

‘The Implications of Brexit for UK Farm Policy,’ The Rural Business School, Duchy College, Issue 54, Spring 2017, pp8-9

‘The Allocation of Resources for Animal Health’ in J. Rushton (ed.) The Economics of Animal Health, OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), Paris. Rev. Sci. Techn. Int. Epiz., 36(1), April 2017, pp35-48

‘The Future of the New Forest National Park’, Forest Matters, Issue No. 2, Spring/Summer 2017, page 9

Review of Dieter Helm ‘Natural Capital - Valuing the Planet’, Forest Matters, Issue No. 3, Autumn/Winter 2017, page 20

‘Valuing Natural Capital for Decision-Makers’, Exmoor Review, Vol.59, 2018, pp57-61 (with Ian Bateman)

‘Natural Capital, Value and Exmoor’, Exmoor Review, Vol.59, 2018, pp67-70

‘Economics and veterinary epidemiology’ in M.V. Thrusfield with R. Christley et al., Veterinary Epidemiology (Fourth edition), 2018, Chapter 25, 565-585 (with M.V. Thrusfield)

‘Contesting the Commons: Economics and Politics in the New Forest National Park of Southern England’, Wieś i Rolnictwo, Instytut Rozwoju Wsi i Rolnictwa, Polska Akademia Nauk, Vol. 179, No. 2, 2018 pp85-111

‘Economic Foundations’, R. Deane and A. Walker, Towards a Register of Exmoor’s Natural Capital, Technical Appendix, Report prepared for the Exmoor Society, Rural Focus Ltd., May 2018, pp2-10





Early years

Infancy left an indelible mark that set the course for my entire adult life. Many days were spent at my grandmother’s New Forest smallholding, imbuing me with a lifelong interest in farming, rural life and environment. Unknown to him, no one was more influential than my uncle, Reg Freeman, who lived and worked there with his parents. Later, teachers at Brockenhurst Grammar School were faced with an earnest and highly motivated teenager, intent on a career in some aspect of agriculture. Early scrutiny of university prospectuses decided me on a degree in chemistry of dairy cow nutrition at Reading University, but mock ‘O’ level results put paid to that. The most miserable day of my life was when my form teacher, ‘Ethel’ Davies, told me that teachers advised me to think again; ‘A’ level physics, chemistry and biology self-evidently were not my forte. ‘Jack’ Hurdidge, careers and economics master, showed me an alternative route. Until then, I had ignored agricultural economics in the university prospectuses. Having the scope of economics explained helped change my perspectives.

I passed science ‘O’ levels respectably, but knew better than to switch from ‘A’ levels in history, geography and economics. Stimulated especially by ‘Mac’ McMullen’s ‘O’ level history teaching - so hilariously eccentric that nowadays he would lose his job – already my interests had grown far wider than agriculture. Another major influence was my much older brother-in-law, Don Bull, a Londoner to the core. His informal education about that great city, and more, vastly broadened my historical, political and cultural horizons.

Student days

In 1965, I was admitted to my first choice university at Aberystwyth, then University College of Wales, greatly attracted by its new curriculum of first year general social studies (economics, politics, international politics, sociology and maths for economists) followed by two years of economics and agricultural economics. I was not disappointed. Ted Nevin, professor of economics, was inspirational. Huw Williams, professor of agricultural economics, instilled some self-belief in his keen, reflective, and somewhat uncertain student. Every unsuccessful job application was met with incredulity that no one wanted to employ me – in his eyes, obviously their mistake. In compensation, I was awarded a prestigious Milk Marketing Board (MMB) Research Scholarship to take a higher degree at Wye College, London University.

Most former students of Wye College cherish their memories of happy days there. Sadly, I do not. Having written a research proposal on economies of scale in milk production, my supervisor recommended a topic on potatoes. Thus began a deeply unhappy three years, spent in conflicts I stubbornly failed to understand I could not win.  But there were consolations. Permission was granted to spend a year following MSc Economics modules at London School of Economics. This brought me into contact with Tim Josling, latterly at Stanford University, then an outstanding young academic fresh back from his doctorate in the USA. Wye also brought me two close friends in John Kennedy, later associate professor of economics at La Trobe University, Melbourne, and Tony Champion, now emeritus professor of population geography at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Bob Campling, reader in animal production, added fuel to my strange fascination with dairy cow nutrition. Graham Donaldson, agricultural economics lecturer, who went on to occupy a senior position at the World Bank, provided a reference to support my Exeter University lectureship application. He copied it to me with an accompanying letter which said - with his characteristic Australian bluntness and vernacular - that we both knew that what he had written about me about me was untrue, but what mattered was that I should believe it. That did much to begin repair of my badly undermined self-confidence. I am forever in Graham’s debt, and I still have his reference.

Appointment to Exeter University

In 1971, appointment to an Exeter University lectureship gave me the opportunity to pursue my ambition to teach and research agricultural economics in an economics, not agricultural, department. Exeter was one of very few UK universities where that was possible. Taking economics tutorials as a Wye College postgraduate had shown me how much I loved teaching, and I still do. The Agricultural Economics Unit (AEU) operated in authoritarian mode, reflecting its history as part of the Provincial Agricultural Economics Service, a quasi-civil service institution whose farm business investigations complemented activities of the technically oriented National Agricultural Advisory Service. I was appointed to teach theory and techniques in agricultural production economics on a newly launched undergraduate degree.

But first I was permitted to complete my London University MPhil (Agricultural Economics), the compromise topic a comprehensive review of research into the economics of milk production. It meant a lot to me that my thesis was extremely well received by the MMB Chief Economist, Roland Williams. Later, Ray Rickard was instrumental in helping me obtain a three year research award from the Meat and Livestock Commission to build a Leontief input-output model of the entire UK livestock and meat sector. This led to my Exeter University PhD (Economics) after five years of extraordinarily hard work.  Martyn Booth and Chris Allen, with whom I am still in contact, were exceptional research assistants. I recall with immense gratitude and affection the colleagues of my early years at Exeter University. Their knowledge of farm business economics and agriculture was profound and, in my view, never properly appreciated.

Economics research in animal health

Days after my arrival in Exeter, Vic Beynon, later AEU director, instructed me that I would spend six months helping him estimate the cost of disease in the UK farm livestock population. This was on behalf of the government’s Swann Committee of Inquiry into the Veterinary Profession. That exercise laid the foundation of an area of expertise – the economics of animal health – I retain to the present day. Vic’s poor health soon caused me to work independently, but it was after John McInerney arrived from Reading University in 1983 to be AEU director that animal health became a mainspring of AEU research. Over many years, John and I enjoyed a very productive collaboration on national and European funded projects. I was elected to the committee of the newly formed Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, serving over a decade including as President (1987-88) and Secretary, and made a Life Member in 2008. International and national conference presentations, workshops, and publishing papers on economic principles for animal health span almost my entire career.

A particular highlight of my career and long association with the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), London University, was co-supervising Barbara Häsler’s research on the economic evaluation of animal disease surveillance (2008-11) with Professor Katherina Stärk, work funded by the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office. That association with RVC continued with the appointment of Jonathan Rushton (now Liverpool University) as its first professor of animal health economics. Participation in his EU-funded NEAT project ( to create an international network of animal health economists saw me granted the status of RVC honorary research fellow. I was astonished and delighted in 2016 to be conferred  with a London University honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVetMed) “in recognition of the outstanding contribution you have made to animal health and welfare and, in particular, to the use of economics in animal health.” (Professor Stuart Reid, RVC Principal).

Transition in central and eastern Europe

The other main strand of my eclectic interests has been transition in central and eastern Europe, a legacy of school European history and my fascination with agricultural policy under communism taught by Garth Hughes at Aberystwyth. Since 1984 I worked in various capacities in Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Russia. Over twelve years from 1992 I worked with two consultancies helping to set up a European integration policy unit in the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (European Union PHARE programme). The first month was by far the most challenging of my career. Following presentation to the government of the joint EU-World Bank team’s draft ‘Agricultural Strategy for Bulgaria’, I was left to assist my Bulgarian counterpart to edit the draft, prepare a brief for the Council of Ministers, and assist a group of Bulgarian economists plan research projects.  None of the latter showed any inclination to consult me until after a very frank exchange of views with Margarita Mihaylova, daughter of a former Minister of Agriculture, who later became director of the new unit. That discussion marked the beginning of a very productive collaboration and friendship that lasted until her untimely death in 2014.

Tim Ash, now senior sovereign strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, joined Bob Lewis and me as research associate for a Leverhulme Trust financed project (1989-91) on the role of Science-Production Associations in Soviet agriculture. Unfortunately, this proved to be optimal mis-timing, because it coincided with President Gorbachev initiating perestroika. But ‘AGFED – Agricultural and Food Economics Development in Ukraine’, an EU Joint European Project (1997-2000) between Exeter University, Justus-Liebig University Giessen, and Bila Tserkva Agricultural Institute (now state university, BTSAU) Ukraine, was above all Tim’s legacy. His introduction to BTSAU was a result of him subsequently working in Bila Tserkva.

Ably assisted by Ron Delve’s team of administrators at Exeter University’s Centre for Educational Development and Co-operation, our task was to help Ukrainian colleagues transform a department of Marxist-Leninist political economy into an embryonic business school. Some progress was made, and a lesson learned: no matter how rich the natural resource endowment of a country, it will not be exploited effectively without the necessary underpinnings of culture, institutions and shared understanding. Yet no project ever provided me with such rewarding experiences as AGFED. It was a privilege to plan, guide and co-ordinate this international project for a country and people that have a special place in my affections.

In Poland, I retain a formal link with IRwirPAN, the Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, thanks to Professor Marek Kłodzinski, its former director who became a great friend. We have worked together on aspects of rural enterprise and development, and held a joint conference leading to a publication including the University of Helsinki on rural development in the enlarged EU.

Other of my activities in the field of transition from central planning are listed in my CV, available on request.

Teaching matters

Reference above to teachers from my schooldays is evidence for the truth that no one forgets a good teacher. For all the attention nowadays on teaching quality assessments only two qualities are key:  altruism and the ability to inspire someone to want to learn. Moreover, to teach well requires at least as much hard work as any research project.

In summary, (full details on CV), my postgraduate economics teaching in Exeter University has spanned: Agriculture and Fisheries (MA in European Economic Studies or Economics of the European Community); Transition and European Integration; Economic Perspectives on European Integration (in the Centre for European Studies, School of Historical, Political and Sociological Studies), and dissertation supervisor for all the above. Also, part responsibility for Common Economic Policies (Agriculture and Rural Resources Policy); European Rural and Environmental Policy; European Integration (in the Centre for European Legal Studies, School of Law).

Undergraduate teaching modules (all Economics Department):  Agricultural Production Economics; Government and Agriculture; Economics of Agricultural Policies; Agricultural Policies and Rural Change; Economic Development and Transition; Agricultural Economics Workshop; Introduction to Agricultural Economics; Economic Organisation of Agriculture; Resource Use Decisions in Farming; Food and Agricultural Policy; Economics of European Integration; Economic Issues; Political Economy, Introduction to Political Economy.

Complementing research in the economics of animal health, the following teaching is all external to Exeter University: Animal Health Economics (MSc in Veterinary Epidemiology and MSc in Control of Infection in Diseased Animals, Royal Veterinary College, University of London, also MSc in Veterinary Public Health, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University and, latterly, University of Copenhagen); Economics of One Health (MSc in One Health and MSc in Veterinary Epidemiology, Royal Veterinary College, University of London); Basic Concepts in the Economics of Animal Health: An Application to Vet Futures (BVMSci, Animals in Society II: Concepts in Epidemiology and Public Health, School of Veterinary Medicine, Surrey University); Why economics matters’ (Lecture to Year 1 Bioveterinary Science undergraduates for module, Introduction to Animal Disease, Epidemiology and Public Health, Liverpool University).

As implied by the above lists, I have always been especially motivated to communicate the importance of acquiring some understanding of economics (invariably very different from what most people think of as economics) to non-specialists. Thus, it gave me enormous pleasure to be recognised by an Agricultural Economics Society Award for Excellence (2018) on precisely those grounds, plus for contribution to public policy which I view as part of the same activity. I make no distinction between my personal and professional life, hence making specific mention of working within Exmoor Society and New Forest Association for the protection of national parks. Everyone should know some economics, an extraordinarily powerful framework for understanding how best to use our scarce resources, and for reaching decisions conducive to people’s improved well-being.

Closing remarks

I have already mentioned some of the people whom I hold in especially high regard, and without whose professional association and friendship I would not have enjoyed so much good fortune in my life and career. Tolerance should be added, more applicable to my wife, Isabel, than anyone else. I refute an accusation of being a workaholic, but admit that, as Isabel once observed, anyone like that would say that, wouldn’t they? In truth, I have simply always been highly motivated to be socially useful, to know what I am for. At inevitable risk, on later reflection, of excluding those I should not, special friends made through professional activities are Michael Thrusfield and Fraser Menzies, both from our very early days in the Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine.

In very recent years, Exeter University’s Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute, has seen a group of first-rate environmental economists established under the overall direction of Professor Ian Bateman. Along with colleagues in the Centre for Rural Policy Research (CRPR), they provide a highly stimulating intellectual environment that helps to keep an older academic younger in mind. But my final words are devoted to Professor Michael Winter and, most recently, Professor Matt Lobley. Following radical institutional restructuring in Exeter University many years ago, loss of the Agricultural Economics Unit (Economics Department) and its replacement by the CRPR (Politics Department) potentially left me without a long-term academic home. Michael and Matt have continued to give me the space, both physical and intellectual, to continue doing what I do. No words can adequately express the extent of my gratitude for their extraordinary generosity. But I hope that my achievements, such as they are, are some repayment to them.


How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!



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