Navigating Dairy Farming during Brexit: balancing productivity with public goods and the need for change

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Sociology


In preparation for Brexit a newly proposed Agriculture Bill is making its way through Parliament. In it,
there is a clear focus on increasing productivity, so that farmers can be profitable and competitive
amongst global market forces (House of Commons, 2018). The Bill also states, however, that there
will be financial assistance given to farmers who seek to address certain public goods:
clean air
soil quality
carbon sequestration
clean rivers and pure water
animal health and welfare
The proposed research is a sociological study of learning and change in farming practices at this
pivotal point in UK agriculture, through an investigation of the dairy industry. Drawing on STS the
study will seek to understand how dairy farmers (many of whom have engaged in significant
intensification since the deregulation of the milk market in 1993) are now adapting and changing
their practices to engage in the kind of productivity outlined above - where both agricultural and
public/environmental goods will be valued.
AHDB Dairy, the CASE partner, is the section of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board
that provides independent research and advice to UK dairy farmers. AHDB Dairy (2018) also
emphasise the need to learn from dairy farmers - e.g. through their 'farm excellence' strategy. Given
the above emphasis on 'public goods', AHDB Dairy are interested in research that pays close
attention to those farmers that are already adopting innovative techniques within the systems they
are managing (for example through lean and holistic management). Innovation is as much a social as
a technical process, however, and the research aims to understand the agency and influence of early
innovators, many of whom are engaging in digital and face-to-face peer-to-peer learning as they
adapt to the to the changing policy context (Matuschke, 2008).


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000665/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2203923 Studentship ES/P000665/1 01/10/2019 31/01/2023 Naomi Hammett