Disadvantage and economic viability: characterising vulnerabilities and resilience in upland farming systems

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Less Favoured Areas (LFA) were designated to support farming activity on land with limited productive potential. However, progressive land abandonment in these areas questions the rationale and targeting of support payments to maintain viable farming enterprises. Using micro level data on farm businesses over the period 2003-2016 matched to land capability and spatial data we identify the distribution of viable and vulnerable enterprises in Less Favoured Areas. We find five categories of household based on progressive quality of life thresholds, namely i. vulnerable, ii. sustainable, iii. viable, iv. resilient, and v. robust. A proportional odds model measured the effect of biophysical and remote disadvantage on predicting these states of viability, along with farm family lifecycle factors. Whilst we would expect higher proportions of disadvantaged farmland to be negatively related to viability, when combined with rural remoteness this increases the magnitude of the effect. However, clear succession planning and tenancy arrangements suggest that approaches to management of the business and the farm family life-cycle may overcome some of these disadvantages. These results have to be considered against the UK’s planned withdrawal from the Common Agricultural Policy. This offers opportunities to provide a more nuanced approach to targeting and supporting disadvantaged regions beyond current criteria. However, there would seem to be dissonance between the proposed payment for public goods agenda, which is results orientated, and support for correcting natural disadvantages where opportunities for delivery of these public goods will be limited.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104698
JournalLand Use Policy
Early online date12 May 2020
Publication statusPrint publication - Jul 2020


  • Brexit
  • Less favoured areas
  • Payment for public goods
  • Proportional odds model


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