olivia seccombe

Dairy Crest’s head of external affairs Olivia Seccombe has left the processor to take on a similar role at the NFU.

Seccombe - one of The Grocer’s Top New Talents of 2013 - started her new role as head of external affairs at the farming union today (16 January).

She will be based in London and will head a group of three on the NFU’s new external affairs team, which will lobby to promote the interests of farmers within government, parliament and with other key stakeholders.

Seccombe joined Dairy Crest in 2012 as the company’s first ever in-house lobbyist and was tasked with devising a public affairs strategy for the processor and running its press office.

She is a former research assistant to Theresa May when she was home secretary, and has also worked for the Countryside Alliance. Seccombe stood as a parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives at the last general election, coming second in the West Bromwich East constituency to Labour’s now deputy leader Tom Watson.

“The NFU is the voice of British food and farming and is a highly respected organisation in national politics,” she said. “This is a critically important time for farming with the future repatriation of agricultural policy to Westminster, and it is absolutely vital that the NFU has broad cross-party as well as government support for the importance of the farming industry.”

Seccombe’s appointment follows the creation of a new London-based Brexit unit, led by its former head of government affairs Nick von Westenholz, who has been appointed director of EU exit and international trade.

Von Westenholz joined the NFU from the Crop Protection Association, where he held the position of CEO.

“There are considerable challenges facing farming but agriculture has a good story to tell with strong public support,” he said. “With the triggering of Article 50 due in the next couple of months, it is absolutely vital that farming’s voice continues to be heard to ensure the sector has a productive, competitive and resilient future outside the EU.”