Following the UK’s exit from the EU, the government has been developing a new approach to farming and the countryside in England, describing it as the “biggest change in agricultural policy in half a century”. This is the NAO’s third study on the programme following an early review of the government’s progress published in June 2019 and a study focused on the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme in September 2021.

We are now halfway through the agricultural transition period and direct payments to farmers under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy have been reduced by half. This makes it a good time to take stock of the government’s progress towards its environmental objectives as well as how the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is balancing these with its objectives to maintain food production and a sustainable agricultural sector.


This study will look beyond ELM at the Farming and Countryside Programme as a whole. It will examine:

  • how Defra is managing the Programme
  • the Programme’s delivery of environmental benefits
  • the Programme’s impact on the economic sustainability of the sector

NAO Team

Director: Keith Davis
Manager: Richard Davis