Assessing attitudes towards the Landscape Recovery scheme

How are farmers feeling about the major changes occurring in domestic agricultural policy, and what are their attitudes towards the Landscape Recovery scheme? Why have some chosen to apply and participate in the scheme, and some not? Read our latest research with Harper Adams University to find out.

‘Landscape Recovery Pilot Scheme: to participate or not to participate?’ used a survey and in-depth semi-structured interviews with participants in Defra’s Landscape Recovery Scheme and those who had chosen not to apply. Twenty-four farmers took part.

Due to the small sample size, this qualitative study is intended to provide a snapshot of how farmers feel about the project; it is not intended to capture a representative view of all English farmers.

Key takeaways from the Landscape Recovery study

  • Be proactive and ahead of the game!
  • Engage with local councils to gain support and coordinate efforts for the application
  • Establish good governance with cluster leaders and company directors
  • Work on gaining buy-in from local farmers as their involvement will be crucial
  • Seek expert guidance from organisations such as Natural England and The Wildlife Trusts
  • Have a dedicated facilitator to help manage the application process and coordinate the group
  • Have all the finance in place before proceeding with the application
  • Involve experts from early on in the process
  • Demonstrate a track record of reliable partnerships to evidence the ability to work collaboratively and effectively

Diversification is great and it's even better if you don't have to directly engage with the general public, which we do with regards to a lot of the diversification that we've done. We've done a holiday cottage quite recently, and we've been looking at Glamping and that sort of thing. I'm very nervous about certain aspects of that because I think the market is becoming quite saturated.
– Beef and sheep farmer

Attitudes towards changes in agricultural policy

As part of the surveys, we asked farmers how they were feeling about the major changes occurring in domestic agricultural policy.

The majority of farmers felt that the reductions in BPS will significantly impact their businesses, and some believed that without funding their food production may cease completely. Farmers knew that they would have to make changes to their businesses, and over half of the respondents had already made changes. These changes included:

  • Diversification
  • Reducing inputs
  • Improving efficiency
  • Seeking revenue streams from environmental services
  • Reducing costs of production and overhead

The farmers said that maximising the financial return of their farm enterprise remained the highest priority, but they also recognised the importance of enhancing the local environment for biodiversity, and remaining sustainable for future generations. This highlights that financial sustainability and business resilience remain the key drivers for decision making and for adoption of agri-environment schemes.

Barriers and challenges when applying

The report describes the barriers and challenges that farmers experienced from applying for Landscape Recovery, and these are summarised below under three themes.

Unclear parameters

  • How the allocation of funding will work in practice
  • Government policy may change during the period of the scheme contract
  • How the project will be monitored
  • How the rules will be enforced
  • Level of investment expected from individual farms
  • How a project is led when more than one farm is involved
  • How to manage the collective responsibilities for delivering the outcomes


  • Loss of farm’s autonomy in decision making
  • Challenges and uncertainty around securing other funding sources
  • Potential conflicts amongst project members
  • Levels of bureaucracy, cost and complex nature in application
  • Eligibility requirements with other agri-environment schemes
  • Individual farm’s capacity to implement the changes required
  • Tax implications
  • Uncertainty around the economics of participation


  • Restrictions from landowner(s)
  • Long-term commitment for land and lifespan of the scheme
  • Short-term tenancy as a barrier to long-term project participation
  • Legal arrangements and support

What farmers had to say

“If I put my land into a scheme for which I'm paid and one of the other members of that scheme messes up, how liable, am I? I'm not going to take the risk. I'm not going to lock up my land for 30 years, I can't commit my land to somebody else's performance.”
Livestock farmer

“Don’t forget farmers are busy people and there's only a certain amount of time that you have to sit down at the computer and apply for grants”
– Beef and sheep farmer 

“One of the significant challenges as I see is the one of the longevity of the potential schemes. Absolute maximum our guys are looking at is 20 years. The moment you start talking about biodiversity net gain of 30 years plus of governance and potentially even longer, then there's lots of red flags being waved.”
– Arable farmer

Benefits to applying

The report looked at perceived benefits to applying for Landscape Recovery. The benefits that were discussed by farmers in the interviews were:

  • A drive to generate income through establishing new environmental markets
  • Contributes to green and net zero requirement
  • Collaborative projects create a wider network and belief that “we are stronger together”
  • Establish collaboration between farmers
  • Generates benefits for environment and biodiversity
  • Land is already biodiverse so lends itself to these projects
  • Potential to increase land value
  • More opportunities for peer to peer learning in collaborative projects
  • Experienced benefits from previous environmental schemes

What farmers had to say

“We were miles ahead because we'd already established the cluster group… We had buy-in from a number of people. We've got our cluster leaders. Equally, we were very fortunate we had a facilitator in place. That's the key thing, is make sure you establish a good group. I would imagine starting cold is quite difficult."
– Beef farmer

“Together, everyone achieves more. … I want to achieve benefits to the environment through the network.”
 – Mixed farmer

Read ‘Landscape Recovery Pilot Scheme: to participate or not to participate?’ by Harper Adams


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Jess Corsair

Senior Economist

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Head of Economics - Analysis

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