A changing climate will inevitably impact on the natural environment, including agriculture. Anticipatory adaptation is necessary to minimise the negative impacts of climate change, to take advantage of opportunities, and to ensure that food and fibre production is maintained. More detailed information is required as to which adaptation measures will yield relatively greater social rates of return. Such information would help define an efficient adaptation agenda in the agricultural sector. This article identifies key adaptation strategies across England’s agricultural sector, and applies cost–benefit analysis to these to determine their net present values, highlighting where the greatest returns can be made, and the role for policy. The results span a wide range, with some soil management activities indicating a negative NPV of £122 million over the course of this century, to a positive NPV of £3,279 million in the case of some livestock adaptations to heat stress. Animal disease surveillance and peatland restoration also generated high NPVs of £1,850 million and £1,840 million, respectively. Adaptations addressing crop disease, water storage measures and managed coastal realignment generated more modest values ranging from £1 million to £61 million. Direct comparison of the numbers is misleading however as some refer to the national level while others are site‐specific. The analysis provides a basis for a discussion on priorities and planning for adaptation in the agricultural sector.