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Our test and learn approach

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Future Farming and Countryside Programme

Although we’ve written about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, we thought it might be useful to provide some rationale for our test and learn approach to designing and rolling out reform 

We’ve already set out our long-term plans in the Agricultural Transition Plan, published at the end of last year. That Plan is our vision for a sustainable and productive agriculture sector in England, and sets out what will become available during our 7-year transition.

Our approach ensures that different schemes and services will launch and develop incrementally throughout the 7 years – not suddenly, and not all in one go.

And we’ll also be publishing specific scheme objectives so you can see how the schemes we launch deliver the outcomes we are committed to achieving.

We know some people will want to move quicker (or, indeed, slower) but we’re designing and managing things iteratively for a few reasons.

Firstly, we know that our policies and schemes stand a better chance of success if we take the time to listen to and work with farmers as we design services for them. Their insights are invaluable. We call this way of working ‘co-design’. You can find out more about our co-design work here on the blog.

Secondly, we want to make sure that farmers have time to plan and adapt. We want to make sure they have the time they need to make decisions that work for their farms, families and businesses. We also want to have support in place to prepare for new schemes and grants coming along during the next few years.

Working in an iterative and collaborative way helps us test ideas at a small scale and develop them incrementally, to make sure we get it right when we roll them out at full scale. This helps avoid making costly mistakes and inconveniencing people with services that don’t work for them.

This is why we’re testing and trialling

We’re testing our new schemes and services to see how they work in theory and in practice. These tests and trials are taking place across the country, with over 3,000 people taking part so far. We blog about our findings regularly.

We’re also using pilots to test some schemes, such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot. We want to ensure that the solutions we are offering are both rewarding for farmers and land managers and are delivered in a smooth and stress-free way.

We provided an update on our progress against the plan in June, and our Programme Director, Janet Hughes, also gave an overview of our progress and set out what you can expect to hear more on this year here on the blog.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog for the latest updates, and if you would like to help shape the future of agriculture in England, please email

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  1. Comment by Roy Endacott posted on

    I’m not sure using words like ‘iteratively’ to explain what you’re trying to achieve in a blog help.
    It might explain perfectly what you’re trying to achieve, but is this really a term we use in everyday speak that farmers will know what you are talking about.
    Please keep it simple

    • Replies to Roy Endacott>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hi Roy,

      Thanks for reading the post and for your feedback.

      Along with farmers, the blog is visited by colleagues across government who are involved in the design and development of services. To them, the word 'iterative' holds meaning as it is one of the government's design principles:

      However, I accept that it's not a great word to use for those in the farming community or, indeed, the general public. We want to be as open and clear about our work as possible to as many people as possible, so we'll find a simpler way to talk about our approach from now on.

      Best wishes and thanks again,

  2. Comment by Paul Tapscott posted on

    Do these schemes apply to wales the same or is there another form of information
    Many thanks

  3. Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

    Hi Paul,

    The schemes in the Future Farming and Countryside Programme only apply to England. This page gives an overview of how farming is changing in Wales:

    Best wishes,


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