Dr Zoe Leach will be a familiar face to many farmers in her previous role as chief executive of the NPA, the trade association for British commercial pig producers.
She says she is excited by the opportunity to lead the NFU’s work across a region with a total agricultural output of £3.4 billion.
“East Anglia is a fantastic region. There is a wide variety of forward-thinking farm businesses there and the NFU is well placed to work on their behalf,” she said.
“It’s not been an easy decision to leave the NPA but I am looking forward to the challenges my new role will bring.”
Zoe, who worked at the NPA under her maiden name of Davies, has extensive experience within the agricultural industry. Between 1995 and 1998 she completed a PHD in pig welfare at the University of Reading, studying the welfare implications of outdoor pig breeding systems.
She then spent three years as farms and trials manager for BQP, including running a pig farm in Suffolk, before she joined Defra in 2002 as senior scientific officer, leading its livestock science unit.
She was appointed general manager of the NPA in 2008 and became its first chief executive in 2014.
Zoe said: “East Anglia is hugely important for the pig sector so I will retain a lot of contact with pig farmers here.
“This job is a totally new challenge, but it also feels like a home from home. I know the area, I know a lot of the people. They are great people and I want to do the best by them.”
She said that key challenges facing agriculture in the region include the availability of water to irrigate crops, securing full time and seasonal farm labour and adapting to the biggest change in agricultural policy in more than 50 years under Defra’s Future Farming Programme for England.
“Climate change is another major issue. It’s only a few years ago that we had the Beast from the East and there will be more weather extremes like that to deal with,” she said.
“This is an exciting move for me. There is so much good work going on here, in so many areas, but also so much to do.”
Zoe is married to Adam, who works in international development, and they have an eight year old son, Alex.
NFU Regional Board Chair Tony Bambridge said: “I would like to congratulate Zoe on her appointment. She brings with her a huge amount of knowledge, skills and expertise, plus an impressive track record of fighting for farmers during an extremely difficult time for the pig sector.
“I'm confident she will make a real success of her new role.”