NFU names comms chief as Europe lifts beef ban

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has appointed its South-West regional director Anthony Gibson to the role of head of comms, following Rachel Oliver’s exit last month.

Gibson, who takes up the position on 20 March, has been in charge of the organisation's largest regional operation since 1992.

The EU's lifting of the British beef export ban means one of his first tasks will be to rebuild the Continental market and restore confidence abroad.

The NFU is also currently at loggerheads with supermarkets over the low prices paid to suppliers of meat. Gibson will have to manage the union's stance on badger culls, farming subsidies and live calf exports – a practice that attracts the ire of animal rights campaigners.

Gibson came to prominence via his live broadcasts on regional television and Devon radio during the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001.
He became known as The Farmers' Champion.

Gibson, who will lead a team of 11, reporting to director-general Richard MacDonald, joined the NFU press office in 1972.

Oliver was the union's first head of comms when she joined just over two years ago (PRWeek, 30 January 2004). Following maternity leave in April 2005 she announced last month that she would not be returning. The role was advertised internally as a six-month secondment.

Gibson said the post had been suggested to him before, but he had been reluctant to move from his native Devon to the NFU's headquarters in Warwickshire.

'The farming industry faces a number of challenges at the moment,' he said.

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