Kevin Roberts, the chief executive officer of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, has been appointed director general of the National Farmers' Union.

Roberts set up the AHDB in April 2008, effectively bringing all levy boards under one umbrella body. He will now leave to join the National Farmers Union on 1 April 2010, replacing outgoing director Richard Macdonald, who is set to retire next month. The role was "one of the top jobs in agriculture", according to Barney Kay, general manager of the National Pig Association.

Martin Haworth, director of policy at the NFU will act as director general until Roberts takes up the role.

Prior to joining the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Roberts was director general of the Meat and Livestock Commission, a role he held from 2002 until the commission was axed by Defra following a reform of the levy board system.

NFU president Peter Kendall said that Roberts shared the NFU's vision of why farming mattered to the British economy and society. "He brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge of our complex industry and is an experienced manager who has successfully led the AHDB through a period of massive change," he added.

Roberts, who will be leaving the AHDB several months before the official termination of his contract, said he was proud of his achievements there, but claimed it was a logical time for him to move on.

"I am really pleased to be joining the NFU. It is the key organisation in farming, has a great track record of achievements, and has an exciting agenda of work ahead of it," he said.

"I hope to help shape the NFU to meet the changing challenges of increasing food production and coping with climate change."

Industry experts predicted Roberts would forge a stronger relationship between the NFU and the levy bodies. "I can see it being a fruitful relationship going forward," said Kay. Roberts claimed it was essential for the two bodies to work together to add value for farmers.