Jean Monnet Network on enforcement of EU law (EULEN)

YRP Projects

Translating nature rules from the EU to the farmer: Dutch environmental cooperatives as regulatory intermediaries (by Edwin Alblas)

This research examines the potential of collective approaches in enhancing the effectiveness of agri-environmental policies, aimed at integrating biodiversity and landscape values into agricultural production processes. Within the EU context, the regulatory framework governing such policies flows most prominently from the EU Birds & Habitats Directive as well as the Common Agricultural Policy. The study takes the Netherlands as a case study, where, in 2016, regulatory competences such as the issuing and distribution of agri-environmental subsidies, as well as monitoring and enforcement duties, were shifted from the national level to so-called ‘environmental cooperatives’. There are currently forty region-based environmental cooperatives in place, composed of groups of farmers and other stakeholders, such as environmental organizations and members of civil society. Overarching policy goals are set at the state level, but the individual cooperatives enjoy great flexibility in deciding the most effective way to realize these goals locally, based on the preferences and capabilities of the group. While the potential merits of the cooperative approach for combating biodiversity loss in agricultural contexts has been recognized in scholarly literature, little attention has been paid to the legal and regulatory dimensions of this shift towards increased self-regulation. Building on recent law and governance literature on the ‘regulatory intermediaries’, this research approaches Dutch environmental cooperatives as intermediaries operating in the space between the overarching state regulators and individual farmers (regulatory targets). Employing a qualitative research design, this project critically evaluates the role and functioning of environmental cooperatives in translating agri-environmental rules and policy objectives from the EU to the individual farmer level.


Mr. Edwin Alblas –

University College Dublin