Farm Business Survey

Carried out by Rural Business Research, the Farm Business Survey (FBS) is the largest and most extensive business survey of farms in England. It is commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and supported by the farming unions. Since it began in 1936, it has become the most authoritative source of information on the economics of farm businesses in England.

It provides unrivalled information on the physical and economic performance of farm businesses in England. This information serves to inform agricultural and environmental policy decision making. The FBS is designed to serve the needs of farmers, government, government partners, farming and land management interest groups, and researchers.

Rural Business Research (RBR) is the consortium of specialist university and college research units which undertake the Farm Business Survey. These research units have exceptional local and national knowledge and expertise about farming. This knowledge and expertise, coupled with in-depth research skills and powerful analysis of data, provides a unique team of skilled researchers who understand farming and the rural sector. RBR turns research findings into practical business management accounts and data that inform government of the true economic situation facing farmers and rural businesses.

Benchmark with FBS Data
You can anonymously benchmark your own farm performance against similar businesses in the FBS. Crop and livestock gross margins, farm profit and loss accounts, balance sheets and productivity measures are all available for benchmarking.

  1. How are farms selected?
    Farms are randomly selected from census returns, to provide a representative sample of farms across the country. A letter is sent to potential participants: if the farmer agrees, a convenient visiting date is arranged by phone to talk more about the survey and the data we would like to collect.
  2. How is the information gathered?
    A researcher usually visits the farm twice a year to collect financial information, much like an accountant would do. Your researcher will also want to ask about farm details such as crop areas and numbers of livestock.
  3. How do farmers benefit?
    As a whole, UK farming benefits: this independent data on the economics of farming provides exceptional information for the development of the industry.

    Individually, too, participants benefit: if your farm is involved in the survey, you will receive valuable business management information back from RBR. Each farm is provided with their own detailed management accounts, together with data assembled from farms of a similar type and size in your region. This data is usually provided as an average for a particular group of farms and also for the “most profitable farms” – helping you make comparisons with others in the industry which can aid your business planning through benchmarking.

    The more you get involved, the more you will gain from taking part. For a large number of our cooperating farms we provide enterprise gross margin analysis together with the full farm management accounts.

  4. Does it cost anything?
    Farms participate in the Farm Business Survey for no fees, and pay no fees for the information they receive.
  5. Is the survey confidential?
    Yes. Details of individual farms are not published. Each participating farm is given a code number and not identified by name or place. Our independence from government and commercial organisations ensures that your identity is never released to anyone outside of your regional RBR unit.
  6. Who has access to the data?
    The processed electronic data is passed on to DEFRA and the EU: the FBS reports are kept anonymous: results from individual farms cannot be identified.

    Group results are published each year in the form of farm type and size group averages. Individual farm information is never published, and the coding system ensures the confidentiality of your data.

  7. What does the information look like?
    The information is presented in three main forms. You receive a detailed set of management accounts allowing you to compare your performance with others in the industry. Detailed reports that use average data for groups of farms are also made available on-line at; these reports are highly valued by farming organisations and government. We also produce sector and enterprise reports from the data that focus upon particular farming sectors; see our publications pages.
  8. Is the survey tied to any other consultancy activities?
    Rural Business Research carries out the survey without involvement in any other consultancy activities: you will never be contacted by a commercial organisation wishing to sell their services or products – RBR’s independence is a key part of our ethos and our trusted relationship with our farmers. Different units within the universities and colleges are involved in other projects, many of which are also valuable to farmers.
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