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Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning
J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85 – 101 (2001)
DOI: 10.1002/jepp.75

Reconnecting Nature, Farming and Society:


Environmental Cooperatives in the Netherlands as
Institutional Arrangements for Creating Coherence
HENK RENTING* AND JAN DOUWE VAN DER PLOEG
Department of Social Sciences, Wageningen University, the Netherlands

ABSTRACT An important implication of agricultural modernization has been the break-down of interlinkages between
farming, ecology and society. Historically, farming systems evolved from the specific responses of farming communities to
local ecological conditions. The totality of regionalized farming systems arising out of this co-production moulded the
countryside into an ‘archipelago’ of differentiated ruralities. During the period of agricultural modernization, the nature of
co-production changed thoroughly. The natural elements in co-production were increasingly artificialized or replaced by
industrial artefacts. This paper analyses the emergence of environmental cooperatives in the Netherlands as a movement
towards a renewed embedding of farming in its local environment. Environmental cooperatives are local farmers
associations that promote activities related to sustainable agriculture and rural development and claim to be actively
involved in effectuating rural policies in their locale. Since the foundation of the first cooperative in 1992, numbers have
rapidly grown to over 100. This paper examines the genesis and practices of environmental cooperatives and assesses their
socio-economic and ecological impact. The importance lies most of all, so the authors contend, in that they represent
valuable ‘field laboratories’ for building stimulating and supportive institutional contexts for remodelling Dutch farming along
the lines of environmental and economic sustainability. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key words: environmental cooperatives; the Netherlands; socio-economic

Agricultural modernization and the Barjolle et al., 1998), which is the specific mix of
break-down of coherence physical, natural and human resources present in
the area of its emergence. The totality of re-
An important consequence of agricultural mod- gionalized agricultural systems or farming styles
ernization has been the accelerated break-down (Hofstee, 1946; Ploeg, 1994) moulded the Eu-
of interlinkages between farming, local ecology ropean countryside into a kind of ‘archipelago’
and society. Historically, farming systems of differentiated ruralities (Hoggart et al., 1995).
evolved as a result of the specific responses of These were exemplified by a diversity of local
farming communities to local ecological condi- farming techniques, regional speciality products,
tions — that is, they resulted out of a particular local breeds of animals and crops, typical rural
form of co-production of nature and society. In architectures, farmed landscapes and particular
an attempt to overcome natural limitations and ecological values embedded in these (Meeus et
valorize endogenous qualities, a wide array of al., 1988).
regionalized agricultural systems developed. Thus, regionally embedded farming systems
Each of these was adjusted, in its own peculiar represented a coherent set of interrelations be-
way, to its terroir (Allaire & Sylvander, 1995; tween farming as a socio-economic activity, lo-
cal ecology, rural culture and society at large.
This particular type of agricultural development,
* Correspondence to: Rural Sociology Group, Department of in which human land-use and local nature grad-
Social Sciences, Wageningen University, PO Box 8130, NL-6700
EW Wageningen, the Netherlands. Tel: + 31 (0)317 485039; ually developed side by side over long periods
fax: +31 (0)317 485475; e-mail: henk.renting@alg.swg.wau.nl of time, dominated European history for
Received 15 January 2001
Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Revised 5 March 2001
Accepted 7 March 2001
86 H. Renting and J.D. van der Ploeg

centuries and persisted until the early twentieth quotas and by the restrictions set on the avail-
century (Pienkowski, 1998). With the modern- able ‘environmental space’ by spatial planning
ization approach to agriculture becoming domi- and environmental regulations. The generalized
nant in the past century, a fundamentally impossibility of expanding total production in-
distinct set of coordination mechanisms came to troduces a ‘zero-sum’ situation: progress for
control agricultural development. In particular, some farms can only be realized through the
the incorporation of farming into commodity decline or disappearance of others. As a result,
markets (not only in vertical product filières, but farmers increasingly have to compete with each
also in capital and input markets) and the large- other over their limited prospects and enter into
scale introduction of externally developed tech- an internal ‘struggle for the future’.
nologies have taken over the role of regionally Similar tensions occur between farming and
embedded coordination mechanisms (Ploeg, other rural actors and entrepreneurs. Rural areas
1990). are no longer automatic strongholds of farming.
This shift to essentially extra-local coordina- The increased importance of consumption inter-
tion mechanisms resulted in the production of ests (Marsden et al., 1993) resulted in the ap-
various disconnections between farming and its pearance of a range of ‘rural others’ (Milbourne,
local social and natural environment (Ploeg, 1997); this increased social differentiation,
1992). The disconnection of agricultural pro- which again introduced new conflicts and ten-
duction from local ecology and the various sions in rural areas. Manuring or the application
environmental problems arising from this is of pesticides no longer have to fit in with farm
widely recognized by now. Similarly, many lo- management strategies and environmental regu-
calized social mechanisms that reproduced the lations, it may also turn into a source of con-
specificity of agriculture, such as common land flicts with neighbours and cause serious
uses and community-based forms of labour problems in obtaining planning permission. An-
exchange, were dismantled in the process other frequent source of tension has been the
of modernization. Recent experience clearly growing importance of nature and landscape
demonstrates that the break-down of coher- interests (Mormont, 1987). Professional organi-
ence associated with modernization has now zations increasingly claim conservation as their
stretched far beyond the boundaries of farming prerogative and set out to create ‘wildlife re-
and its direct environment. Indeed, the wider serves’ that are clearly segregated from farmer-
social and institutional relations that surround farm- controlled land.
ing and food production are increasingly char- In short, rural society is deeply divided inter-
acterized by tensions, disconnections and nally. There is a generalized distrust between
distrust (Raad voor het Landelijk Gebied, farmers, the state and other rural actors, and it
1998).1 This is perhaps most obvious at the consequently results in an increased potential
level of the relations between farming and soci- for conflicts too. It is important to underline
ety at large, where food ‘scares’ and alleged that this distrust is mutual and that the distrust
health risks have become major concerns of of one party reinforces that of another. Farmers’
consumers and politicians (Goodman, 1999). reactions are increasingly understood by the
Institutional relations between the farming wider public and within state apparatuses as
sector and the state and rural society itself are expressions of unwillingness, sabotage or ‘slow-
increasingly characterized by a deep and wide- ing-down tactics’ in order not to meet the de-
spread distrust. Even the complex web of inter- mands of the wider society towards agriculture.2
relations between farmers is penetrated by Hence, the regulatory burden and culture
conflict and distrust. Due to market and policy grows, implying an ever stronger prescription of
developments, the opportunities for expanding the farm labour process (Frouws et al., 1996) and
production— one of the crucial mechanisms for fast rising costs for control and surveillance.
the further ‘unfolding’ of the modernization The subsequent practical contradictions and
model— have become seriously limited. This is obligatory investment rounds at farm level
exemplified by market policies such as dairy (Ward, 1993) and the fact that many possible

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
Reconnecting Nature, Farming and Society 87

farm development trajectories are blocked off,3 sustainable livelihood strategies (Kinsella et al.,
in turn, reinforce farmers’ distrust of state agen- 2000). Last but not least, a range of new rural
cies and society at large (i.e. ‘the consumer’). development activities has emerged — including
Moreover, through this mechanism many farms organic farming (Miele, 2001), agro-tourism and
are drawn into a state of ‘semi-clandestinity’. agri-environmental measures—which are in-
creasingly adopted by farm households as a
means to strengthen their business (Broekhuizen
et al., 1997). Many of these new (and revitalized
Rural development as an alternative ‘old’) practices correspond to a development
paradigm for farming and society rationale that is fundamentally distinct from the
modernization approach. They represent the
In spite of the uniforming effects of agricultural contours of a new rural development paradigm that
modernization, farming continues to be charac- goes fundamentally beyond the postulates of
terized by a considerable degree of diversity — modernization (Ploeg & Renting, 2000; Ploeg et
as documented inter alia in various farming styles al., 2000).
studies (Ploeg, 1999). The modernization of
agriculture, and its production of disconnec-
tions, is therefore by no means an automatically
‘unfolding’ process. Whilst some farmers opted Environmental cooperatives as
explicitly for the modernization model of the carriers for the re-embedding of
‘vanguard farm’, others actively and consciously farming
developed ingenious ways of retaining the au-
tonomy of their farm and successfully con- The emergence of environmental cooperatives
structed alternative trajectories. For a long time in Dutch farming should be understood against
these alternative development trajectories re- this background. Environmental cooperatives4
mained ‘blind spots’ within official political and are innovative associations of farmers based at
scientific discourses, since they were considered local or regional level, which promote and orga-
to be temporary phenomena predestined to dis- nize activities related to sustainable agriculture
appear with the further unfolding of moderniza- and rural development in their locale. They also
tion. In view of the changing policy goals for claim to be actively involved in the formulation
rural areas and the new societal needs articu- and realization of adequate rural policies within
lated for rural areas, we have recently witnessed their operational boundaries. The activities
a revaluation of the diversity of farm develop- taken up by environmental cooperatives are
ment trajectories. highly variable. In most cases they involve na-
It is widely accepted that the productivist ture and landscape management and the reduc-
model of farm development has serious negative tion environmental pollution on member farms,
side-effects for food quality and the environ- but may also cover water management, agro-
ment, and it may at best be a viable develop- tourism, regional quality production and organic
ment model for a small part of the farming farming.
population. Many ‘traditional’ farming systems, Environmental cooperatives started emerging
which were foreseen to disappear under the in the early 1990s in response to the crisis of
modernization paradigm, are moving to the productivist agriculture, a general concern over
front of the policy agenda again and have been the deteriorating public image of farming and,
revalued for their ‘high nature value’ (Beaufoy et most of all, the increasing body of environmen-
al., 1994) or as providers of regional quality tal regulations that were seen by many farmers
food (De Roest, 2000). Pluriactivity, once con- at that time as unworkable in the practice of
ceived as an indication of ‘insufficient agri- their farms. Since the first environmental coop-
culture’ (Etxezarreta, 1985), is increasingly erative was officially founded in 1992, numbers
recognized as a persistent phenomenon that have grown to more then 100 at present. Col-
may hold important clues for new viable and lectively, they have developed into a social

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
88 H. Renting and J.D. van der Ploeg

movement for the remodelling of Dutch farming The emerging new institutional relations be-
along the lines of environmental and economic tween farming and state apparatuses essentially
sustainability. In the remaining part of this pa- involve the following exchange principle. Responsi-
per we will go further into the genesis and ble state agencies define clear and quantifiable
practices of environmental cooperatives and policy goals with respect to the environment,
analyse their impact in rural development terms. landscape, nature, product quality etc. for the
The meaning and (potential) role of environ- area covered by the cooperative. The member
mental cooperatives, we contend, is most of all farmers of the cooperative in turn promise not
that their practices (and certainly those of the only to endorse these goals, but also to do
more advanced ones) represent interesting ‘field everything within their reach to realize these
laboratories’ for innovations in the institutional goals in the most effective way. It follows from
embedding of a transformation towards sustainable experience that environmental cooperatives are
rural development. able, in many cases, to effectuate policy goals
The innovative element contained within the more quickly, more convincingly, more effec-
practices of environmental cooperatives is that tively and in cheaper ways than generic state
they enable the construction of new networks to regulations. Some environmental cooperatives
facilitate sustainable agriculture and rural devel- commit themselves to go considerably further
opment in the locality they cover. By (re-) than the established generic policy goals.
creating linkages between farming, local ecol- In exchange for this self-chosen obligation (in
ogy and landscape, and the wider social and Dutch inspanningsverplichting, literally ‘commit-
institutional environment, environmental coop- ment to act’ or ‘obligation to make an effort’),
eratives play an important role in enabling a more flexibility with respect to the exact ways
renewed embedding of farming. The following of policy implementation on member farms is
elements are crucial in this process. assigned to the environmental cooperatives.
That is, they are allowed to develop themselves
the measures and instruments that they consider the
New institutional relations between the state and most adequate in realizing policy goals in the
agriculture particular local context. Environmental coopera-
tives, therefore, represent a decisive step be-
Environmental cooperatives represent an at- yond the now reigning approach of centrally
tempt to build new institutional relations be- imposed generic policy measures.
tween the state and the farming population. In The exchange deal between state agencies
doing so they endeavour to go beyond the and the environmental cooperative is contractu-
generalized distrust that has permeated state – ally regulated. In most cases, environmental coop-
farm relations. Environmental cooperatives cer- eratives write their own policy and activity plan,
tainly criticize and question the overload of which both present their view on rural develop-
state regulations that apply at farm level. How- ment in the area and specify planned activities
ever, instead of falling into ‘slowing-down tac- (including a strict timetable and necessary bud-
tics’, they generally accept and endorse the gets). This forms the basis for talks with rele-
policy objectives set by state agencies. Simulta- vant government departments and agencies, in
neously, environmental cooperatives claim sub- which the concrete projects of the cooperative
stantial reforms and more flexibility in their take shape and where the conditions for these
implementation. The centralized, top-down pre- projects are negotiated (budgets, exemptions
scription of how policy goals are to be imple- from generic regulations etc.). The negotiated
mented at the local level is demanded to be result is in many cases formalized in an agreement
replaced by a more cooperative policy strategy or covenant signed by all parties. The negotiated
that actively involves farmers through legally projects and liberties are only open to members
conditioned forms of self-regulation. In this re- of the environmental cooperative. Other non-
spect environmental cooperatives pop up as new member farms in the area covered by the coop-
institutional arenas for negotiation and cooperation. erative continue to be subject to generic policy

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
Reconnecting Nature, Farming and Society 89

measures. Environmental cooperatives are usu- this may be understood as the building of social
ally appointed for a number of years to demon- capital (Putnam, 1993) —that is, the consolida-
strate the viability of their approach. If tion and reinforcement of social networks facili-
successful, the agreement is renewed; if not, it is tating cooperation between local actors who
terminated and member farmers are again sub- may be employed as a resource base for joint
ject to the reigning generic regulations. In prin- projects at a later stage.
ciple, this excludes free-rider behaviour at the level
of the cooperative as a whole. The same mecha-
nism generally applies to member farmers. The re-embedding of farming
Members who clearly sabotage the agreed mea-
sures or clearly fail to make an effort may be The efforts of environmental cooperatives to
expelled and hence will again have to resort to rearrange institutional relations with state agen-
the generic rules. cies and other actors eventually aim at creating
sufficient room for manoeuvre at the farm level
to establish a re-embedding of farming prac-
Rebuilding networks of trust at the local level tices. At the farm level, a wide range of possibil-
ities exists to realign farming, ecology and wider
At the local level, environmental cooperatives society, although the exact lines along which to
frequently emerge as vehicles or mechanisms proceed may be highly differentiated (De Bruin
capable of overcoming existing contradictions & Ploeg, 1991). In order to be able to actually
and distrust. They do this by actively creating effectuate these potentials, it is necessary to
new networks and coalitions between the farm- alleviate the strong external pressures from mar-
ing population and other rural interest groups. ket forces and prescriptive policy frameworks.
These include, amongst others, environmental In this respect, environmental cooperatives are
groups, professional nature conservation agen- an attempt to restore the wholeness, contextuality
cies, associations of rural dwellers and organiza- and specificity of farming, inter alia, by reinforcing
tions of other rural entrepreneurs (tourism and the craftsmanship of farmers and their capacity
leisure, shops etc.). Many environmental coop- to produce tailor-made innovations that are
eratives take position explicitly against the in- fine-tuned to the particularities of localized set-
creased potential for conflicts between farming tings (Leeuwis, 1993; Eshuis, 2001; for a theo-
and other land uses in the area covered by the retical discussion, see Callon, 1999).
cooperatives. A statement of one of the cooper- Environmental cooperatives by no means em-
atives is telling in this respect. body a simple deregulation of agricultural pro-
We have become more convinced that develop- duction; rather, they envisage a re-regulation of
ments in agriculture cannot be seen as isolated farming in line with the needs of their specific
from other functions in our area. We feel that locality. Just as the modernization model could
different interests have become too much drawn flourish due to the existence of a favourable
apart. We have come to the conclusion that the institutional environment of policy incentives,
joining of forces and interests may open new research and extension, a renewed embedding
perspectives for our region and its inhabitants. of farming supposes a responsive institutional
(VEL, 1994, p. 17)
back-up (Ploeg & Frouws, 1999; Roep, 2000). It
Instead of viewing the future of agriculture in is telling that environmental cooperatives are
isolation, environmental cooperatives advocate among the pioneers in experimenting with new
an integrated development of land uses and codes and rules, which might be instrumental in
economic activities in their region. The com- the building of a new regulatory framework for
monly used term is verweving (integration, liter- regionally embedded farming systems. Nature
ally ‘interweaving’ of functions at local level). By management plans, mineral balances, ecological
going beyond distrust and conflicts, environ- norms, codes of conduct and farm certification
mental cooperatives open the way for a range of schemes are some of the examples. All these
new coalitions at the local level. Conceptually, institutional innovations have in common, that

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
90 H. Renting and J.D. van der Ploeg

they enable the locus of control of farming and again, the local level is decisive. A general
rural development to be shifted back to essen- pattern is that the curbing down of environmen-
tially locality-specific coordination mechanisms. tal pressure on member farms (e.g. through
study groups) and activities related to the farm-
ers’ management of nature and landscape usually
constitute the initial core activities. However,
On the genesis and practices of various environmental cooperatives extended
environmental cooperatives their reach far beyond this and have taken up
activities as diverse as agro-tourism, water man-
What are the underlying reasons for the emer- agement, the management of public roads and
gence of environmental cooperatives? And why footpaths, regional quality production or or-
do they occur in the specific form outlined ganic farming.
above? It is not easy to answer these questions Finally, the particular organizational form of
due to the highly specific nature of each initia- environmental cooperatives is highly differenti-
tive. Each environmental cooperative has its ated and influenced by differences in regional
own particular and often highly local roots, and culture and history (Hees et al., 1994; Hees,
these contextual factors influence the specific 2000). In some cases, environmental coopera-
form taken in each setting, the concrete activi- tives grew from previously existing farmers’ as-
ties taken up and the degree of success. The sociations, such as action groups working on
Appendix summarizes one specific experience in Third World issues or nature management in
order to indicate how the general trend towards the 1970s and 1980s. In other places, they
environmental cooperatives and the many par- revived traditional forms of cooperation and
ticularities of local contexts interact. common land use that had become out of use
The specificity of local contexts influenced during modernization, but now in view of the
the genesis and practices of environmental co- new political context had regained their func-
operatives in several ways. First, the factors that tionality. There are only a few examples of
triggered off their founding are often highly cooperatives that originated in the regular farm-
localized. As the Appendix shows, the first ers’ unions. In fact, the incapacity of farmers’
environmental cooperatives were often a re- unions to adequately address local issues appears
sponse to local issues—especially related to to be a reason for the emergence of environ-
practical problems experienced by local farmers mental cooperatives. For a long time, conven-
as a consequence of the framework of rigid tional farmers’ unions in the Netherlands
generic (environmental) regulations. Local farm- remained strong defenders of the modernization
ers mobilize themselves as a result of a wide model, an attitude that only started to change
range of regulations. For Vereniging Eastermar’s slowly in recent years. In most regions, environ-
Lânsdouwe (VEL) and Vereniging Agrarisch mental cooperatives received hardly any support
Natuur en Landschapsbeheer Achtkarspelen from the institutionalized farmers’ unions, cer-
(VANLA), it was the regulatory framework sur- tainly in the early days. A more positive attitude
rounding ‘acidification’ that threatened to block has developed only recently, although there are
any further prospect for farm development; in again important regional differences. An impor-
other situations, for example, it was the obliga- tant exception to this pattern has been the
tion to apply manure through injection tech- southern region of Noord-Brabant and Limburg,
niques being at odds with existing practices of which maintains a strong pig-farming sector.
meadow bird protection. In recent years, the Here the phenomenon has been instrumental to
inspiring examples of existing cooperatives in- local farmers’ unions in breaking through the
creasingly became a motivation for farmers else- policy impasse surrounding this sector.
where to organize themselves along similar In more general terms, it can be hypothesized
lines. that the particular development of policy frame-
Second, the exact mix of activities taken up works in the Netherlands has been a factor that
by the cooperatives is highly differentiated; triggered off the emergence of environmental

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
Reconnecting Nature, Farming and Society 91

cooperatives. In view of the strong alignment of been realized as a consequence of the member-
the Dutch expert system with modernization, ship of an environmental cooperative?).
policy approaches for the countryside had a
strong agricultural focus until recently (Frouws,
1998). For a long time, rural development pol- The scale and reach of environmental cooperatives
icy was regarded as useful for Alpine and Med-
iterranean regions but irrelevant to Dutch It is hardly possible to make a reliable assess-
farming. In this respect, it is telling that the ment of the number of actually existing environ-
main European policy framework for rural de- mental cooperatives, and even less so of the
velopment, LEADER, was hardly implemented: number of farms and the amount of land in-
only in its second phase was the programme volved. Environmental cooperatives do not re-
applied in four regions. This does not mean that late to any official category, nor have they been
the shift towards territorial and ‘bottom-up’ ap- stimulated by any nation-wide policy scheme.
proaches completely passed by the Netherlands. Therefore, their number is not officially regis-
A similar approach emerged in the 1990s, but tered. It is clear that the number of cooperatives
rather as part of environmental and nature poli- increased rapidly after the foundation of the
cies where specific territorial schemes already first one in 1992. An initial inventory in 1993
applied. To some extent environmental cooper- demonstrated that their number had already
atives represent a field response to these par- grown to 26 (Hees et al., 1994). The database
ticular policy developments.5 Their practices on the website of the Innovation Centre
embody several elements that are articulated in Wageningen (2000), which contains 73 envi-
other national contexts as part of LEADER-type ronmental cooperatives, gives an indication of
programmes (Mannion, 1996; Ray, 2000). the actual number. The most comprehensive
data comes from the Agricultural Economics
Group of Wageningen University, who in the
mid-1999 traced 81 cooperatives (Polman &
The socio-economic and Slangen, 1999). We think that these figures
environmental impact of (partly due to the specific local nature of the
environmental cooperatives phenomenon) are still an under-estimate and we
consider 100 to be a fair estimation of the
For an assessment of the (potential) role of number of existing environmental cooperatives.
environmental cooperatives in rural develop- The data collected by Polman & Slangen
ment, it is important to unpack their impact in (1999) gives us an idea of the reach of environ-
socio-economic and environmental terms. Fur- mental cooperatives. On the basis of a postal
thermore, this enables us to better understand questionnaire, it was determined that the 81
the underlying mechanisms and driving forces. cooperatives were composed of 6600 members
Why do people make the effort to get involved? farms with about 134000 hectares of land in
What do they gain from participation? It also use. This implies that 6% of all Dutch farms in
helps us to better understand the (potential) 1999 were organized in environmental coopera-
‘value added’ of environmental cooperatives in tives and that member farms represented 7% of
terms of various rural development objectives total agricultural land. Table 1 gives the re-
(Knickel & Renting, 2000; Ploeg & Renting, gional distribution of initiatives.
2000). In the following, we will explore some of The data indicate that there are a number of
the available empirical evidence of the impact of regional clusters of environmental cooperatives.
environmental cooperatives, by analysing (i) One cluster is located in the northern province
their scale and reach (i.e. what is the number of of Friesland, where the first environmental co-
farms involved and how much land do they operatives emerged, and another one in the
represent?) and (ii) the ‘value added’ of the western part of the Netherlands in the provinces
activities (i.e. what improvements in environ- of North and South Holland and Utrecht. This
mental and socio-economic performance have cluster refers to the ‘Green Heart’—that is, the

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
92 H. Renting and J.D. van der Ploeg
Table 1. Provincial distribution of environmental cooperatives in 1999

Province Number of Number of Percentage of Total area covered Percentage of


cooperatives member total number by cooperatives total agricultural
farms of farms (1000 ha) area

Groningen 6 200 1 7 4
Friesland 16 590 8 23 8
Drenthe 2 70 1 4 2
Overijssel 2 130 1 0 0
Gelderland 12 330 2 4 1
Limburg 6 3030 40 15 11
Utrecht 10 590 13 17 19
Noord-Holland 12 530 6 27 15
Zuid-Holland 12 1060 9 34 18
Zeeland 4 70 1 3 1
Total 81 6600 6 134 7

Source: Polman & Slangen (1999).

highly valued rural area within the large urban members of cooperatives is under EC manage-
agglomeration of the west Netherlands (Amster- ment agreements (Council Regulation (EEC)
dam– Rotterdam –Utrecht –The Hague). The 2078/92, OJ no. L 215, 30.7.1992, pp. 85–90),
clusters in Friesland and the ‘Green Heart’ are in representing 15 –20% of all land under manage-
line with the experience that there is a relatively ment agreements nationally.
strong institutional support in these areas, from
both provincial governments and regional farm-
ers unions. A third cluster appears to be located Environmental impacts
in the southern province of Limburg. This may
be biased, however; for in the case of a few An assessment of the ‘value added’ of environ-
organizations in this region, all members of mental cooperatives —be it in environmental or
local farmers unions are automatically members socio-economic terms —is made difficult by the
of the environmental cooperative. The regional existence of large differences in the stage of
clustering implies that in some areas the share of development and the mix of activities taken up.
farms organized in cooperatives is considerably While some cooperatives are still in a start-up
higher than the national average. In some areas phase, others by now have an experience of
this may rise to about 10%, whilst the share of almost 10 years. We have chosen here to focus
farmland covered may rise to 15 –20%. on some of the more developed cooperatives.
The data also make clear that environmental This is partly for reasons of data availability, but
cooperatives generally attract relatively large, also because these experiences give the best
full-time farms. The average size of cooperatives indication of what might be achieved through
is about 70 members with 1600 ha (23 ha on a further strengthening of environmental
average per farm). In regions where there is an cooperatives.
environmental cooperative, about 50% of the An impression of the environmental impact
farmers are members (Polman & Slangen, 1999). can be obtained from the experience of the
Environmental cooperatives are rather poorly previously described Frisian cooperatives VEL
represented in provinces where arable farming and VANLA. Two categories of activities are
predominates (Groningen, Zeeland). Polman relevant here: the ‘environmental track’ and the
and Slangen report that, in the vast majority ‘nature track’. The ‘environmental track’ refers to
(81%), the land used by environmental coopera- a range of activities for reducing the environ-
tives is grassland. An explanation of this is that mental pollution on member farms, most of all
in areas of high ecological value in the Nether- through a strategy of reduced use of external
lands, (extensive) grazing is the most common inputs combined with a more efficient use of
agricultural land use. Some 10% of grassland of internal farm resources. The ‘nature track’ covers

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
Reconnecting Nature, Farming and Society 93

Figure 1. Nitrogen surpluses on VEL and VANLA member farms compared to regional average.

a range of activities that actively contribute to eratives effectively manage to bring modernized
the management of ecological and landscape farming back in line with the carrying capacity
values on member farms and within the region. of local ecology. The same conclusion can be
Figure 1 shows the trend in nitrogen surpluses drawn from the distribution of nitrogen sur-
of member farms and a regional reference group pluses among member farms (Figure 2). While
over the last 5 years (based on VEL & VANLA, the largest category still realized losses of 360–
2000). The data make clear that member farms 400 kg N/ha in 1995 –1996, this had been
realize substantially lower nitrogen losses for all reduced to 200– 240 kg N/ha by 1998– 1999.
the years. In fact, the losses for 1999 – 2000 are The fact that several farms even managed to go
already reasonably well in line with the national below this is an indication of potential future
policy goals for 2003. Still more interesting is improvements.
the development in time. In spite of lower losses The ‘nature track’ resulted in a similar im-
at the start, member farms reduced their nitro- provement in the state of the local environment.
gen losses at higher rates than the regional Whilst participation rates for (landscape) man-
average. This indicates that the reduction did agement schemes have traditionally been rela-
not yet meet a ‘bottom line’ and that the coop- tively high in the region, the cooperatives

Figure 2. Distribution of nitrogen surpluses among VEL and VANLA member farms.

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
94 H. Renting and J.D. van der Ploeg

contributed to maintain these and to extend ment activities. For example, some member
them into new areas. At present, 270 ha of the farms converted to organic production or
land of member farms is under management started with agro-tourist activities due to their
agreements (for protection of meadow birds or involvement in the cooperative. Data for the
botanic values), field margin measures are effec- farms involved are lacking, but it is known from
tuated on 80 ha and 240 kilometres of more general studies that conversion of dairy
hedgerows and 220 ponds are actively managed farms to organics results in €18000 extra net
by farmers. There is no doubt that the existence value added, while agro-tourism adds on aver-
of the cooperatives positively influenced the age €8000 net value added at farm level (Roep et
scale and quality of nature and landscape man- al., 2000).
agement. VEL and VANLA took the initiative The additional effect of environmental coop-
for several new conservation measures, such as eratives on the uptake of new rural development
the management of field margins and farmers’ activities is that it opens up new opportunities
management of nature reserves. The coopera- that would have been impossible to access by
tives also initiated that the area open to existing farms individually. VEL and VANLA’s activities,
measures was substantially enlarged. VEL and for example, resulted in the articulation of sev-
VANLA organize courses and study groups, eral previously non-existent conservation pay-
resulting in the drawing up of long-term nature ment schemes, such as for the management of
management plans for member farms. field margins, nature reserves, public roads and
footpaths. The activities of the cooperatives
with other entrepreneurs and the local tourist
Socio-economic impacts agency substantially improved the reputation of
the area as a tourist destination, thereby indi-
It is difficult to fully quantify the socio-eco- rectly creating new opportunities for farms to
nomic impacts of environmental cooperatives. enter this market.
This is due to difficulties in accessing (confiden- Besides creating new ‘markets’ for rural devel-
tial) farm economic data, but it is also due to opment, the environmental cooperatives have
methodological problems such as the calculation been instrumental in increasing participation
of reductions in transaction costs. In general rates. By mobilizing social mechanisms of trust
terms, the cooperatives certainly appear to have within the community, farmers more easily
improved the socio-economic performance of make the step to actually go ahead with new
member farms. Local leaders point at the ‘re- activities and leave behind the initial distrust
newed spirit’ among farmers, which positively and reluctance that might dominate when ap-
affected the local economy: ‘Farmers again feel proached by state officials. An example of this is
that they make a difference, that their activities the new scheme for field margin management:
and their search for a more sustainable agricul- initially foreseen for 7 – 8 kilometres, within a
ture are relevant. More farmers would surely few days farmers had signed up for 130 kilome-
have given up without our cooperative’. tres of field margins! In more specific activities,
Various mechanisms are involved in the so- such as organic farming or agro-tourism, coop-
cio-economic impact of environmental coopera- eratives play an important role as ‘broker’ be-
tives. First, the institutional framework of the tween interested farmers and relevant agencies.
cooperative facilitates members to take up new If individual farmers have difficulties in tracing
rural development activities and thereby to real- sources of information and advice, the coopera-
ize new farm revenues. This is most obvious with tives play an important, mediating role.
respect to payments for nature and landscape The practices of environmental cooperatives
management. On VEL and VANLA member do not only result in new revenues, but also in
farms, conservation payments on average con- important cost reductions. Part of these relate to
tribute €5500 of revenues (VEL & VANLA, reductions in transaction costs (Saccomandi,
2000), but large differences exist between farms. 1998) under the new regulatory framework—
A similar effect occurs for other rural develop- and they are hardly quantifiable. Members

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
Reconnecting Nature, Farming and Society 95

spend less time on bureaucratic regulations, Synergy and the building of social and natural
may sometimes avoid unnecessary investments capital
and can manage their farms more efficiently if
unworkable situations are resolved through the In the previous sections, the most salient envi-
cooperative. These benefits at the farm level ronmental and socio-economic impacts of envi-
are frequently combined with similar cost re- ronmental cooperatives have been identified. It
ductions for state agencies and third parties. should be stressed that these are by no means
Additionally, there is a sharp reduction in isolated effects. On the contrary, the practices
control costs for the state as compared to of environmental cooperatives are characterized
generic policy frameworks. Instead of con- by a high degree of overlap and synergy. Activities
trolling 200 farmers each year, monitoring is to curb down environmental pressure imply im-
now conducted to a large extent by the coop- portant cost reductions at the same time. The
eratives, and external state control may be re- improved quality of nature and landscape indi-
duced to one moment in several years. rectly opens new opportunities for rural tourism
Evidently, this is related to the distrust be- and regional quality production. Rather than
tween farmers and agencies, which is over- merely improving the economic performance of
come and replaced by a ‘new social contract’ individual farms in the short run, environmental
at the local level, based on relations of confi- cooperatives constitute a long-term effort to
dence. By doing so, environmental coopera- enhance the local resource base of social and
tives effectively manage to curb down the natural capital to be employed for future devel-
exploding transaction and control costs associated opment. Nature and landscape management
with rigid generic policies. The overall reduc- from this perspective is not only a vehicle for
tion in costs is profited by all parties— farm- environmental enhancement, but also a poten-
ers, state agencies and third parties alike tially important factor in product development
— whilst part of the freed-up budget is and marketing (Knickel & Renting, 2000). The
rechannelled towards other activities that ef- construction of clusters of interconnected, mu-
fectively strengthen the area. tually reinforcing activities and the additional
Other important cost reductions result from synergy effects arising from these appear to be
the activities along the ‘environmental track’. crucial mechanisms for successful rural develop-
While these primarily intend to curb down ment (Ploeg & Renting, 2000; Brunori & Rossi,
environmental pressure, they also have impor- 2000).
tant socio-economic effects. VEL and VANLA The effects of such an integrated approach
have actively recognized the virtues of low can be illustrated by the experience of another
external input agriculture (Ploeg, 2000) and environmental cooperative in the Waterland re-
they promote measures that simultaneously re- gion, just north of Amsterdam, renowned for its
duce environmental pressure and farming costs typically Dutch open landscape and importance
through study groups and on-farm research. In for meadow birds. Here too, nature and land-
recent years, experiments were initiated on 60 scape management form the core of the cooper-
member farms to identify means for improving ative’s activities. In 1997, about €470000 was
the efficiency of nutrient flows within the paid to the 160 member farms for various
farm. Several of these activities would have conservation activities (Vereniging Agrarisch
been impossible without the existence of the Natuurbeheer Waterland, 1997). Again the fa-
cooperatives, since exemption from generic cilitating role of the environmental cooperative
regulations were necessary and contacts with is evident: conservation measures were paid
research institutes had to be established. The from regular policy instruments only on 32% of
associated cost reductions amount to about the overall 8700 hectares, while nature con-
€135 per hectare, which for an average farm tracts—which would not have existed other-
of 30 hectares implies a benefit of €4000 wise—were established through the cooperative
annually. for an additional 5900 hectares. The ‘nature

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
96 H. Renting and J.D. van der Ploeg

offer’ for the year 2000 made by the cooperative (Roep, 2000). Rurality, it might be argued, is
to state agencies, covering 14700 ha, provides the continuously changing result of this multi-
an indication of future potential. faceted and highly complex process (Ploeg,
New activities in the region emerged re- 1997). During the epoch of agricultural mod-
cently, which explicitly build on the natural ernization, the nature of co-production has
assets of the region and employ its specific changed thoroughly. The natural materials and
ecology as a crucial element in marketing and processes entailed in co-production have been
promotion. One initiative is an agro-tourist increasingly artificialized, if not replaced right
farmers’ association called Hotel de Boerenkamer away by industrial artefacts. Animal manure and
(Hotel the Farmer’s Chamber), aiming at the natural recycling were replaced with high doses
exclusive market of renting farm apartments of artificial fertilizers; climatic factors became
(most Dutch agro-tourist accommodations be- increasingly regulated in greenhouses, including
ing small camp sites). In the second year of its the light necessary for plant growth. All this
existence (1998) 1300 bookings were made, implied an increasing disconnection between
resulting in €40000 of new revenues in the farming and the local ecology (Ploeg, 1992).
region. Another initiative involves 55 farmers Whilst nature could initially be understood as
producing quality Waterland meat under a re- a wide range of use values, moulded through
gional brand name. The specific production previous co-production and to be used (and
guidelines include on-farm nature management especially reproduced) in new cycles of co-
and result in a particular meat quality that is production (Toledo, 1989), a clear boundary
highly valued by restaurants. The marketed pro- between nature and farming had emerged at the
duction in 1999 resulted in an overall extra net end of the modernization epoch. Nature within
value added on participating farms of €150000 farming was reduced to an irrelevant back-
(Meulen, 1999). The two examples show how ground, if not a troublesome hindrance. In other
the improved quality of nature and landscape words, farming became increasingly (albeit not
indirectly enabled the generation of about completely) industrialized, whilst nature was
€200000 in the region on top of conservation turned into a domain to be safeguarded and
payments. There is still substantial potential for regulated by the state. In wider society, concep-
an increase of these indirect effects by further tions of nature became increasingly dissociated
market development but also through new activ- from farming and dominated by the (essentially
ities. The Waterland cooperative, for example, urban) notion of ‘wilderness’ (Mormont, 1987;
promotes organic farming with the objective of Koppen, 1997).
10% of member farms being organic in the near Against this background, environmental co-
future and proposes to effectuate subsidies for operatives emerge as particularly relevant phe-
conversion through the cooperative. Plans also nomena. Environmental cooperatives represent
exist for a green investment programme, making an organized endeavour to reconstitute the
it possible to refinance farms at lower interest essence of co-production and reallocate it again
rates. into the core of the agricultural labour process.
Farming is, within the context of environmental
cooperatives, not limited to the production of
commodities such as milk and potatoes, it also
Concluding remarks: struggling for includes the (re-)production of landscapes, natu-
institutional support ral values, a clean and healthy environment and
a countryside that is accessible for its enjoy-
The notion of co-production refers to the ongo- ment. Institutionally, they represent the ur-
ing interaction, mutual transformation and de- gently required organizational pattern to ground
pendency between humans and nature — that is, and sustain such a reintroduction of co-produc-
between the social and the natural. Both the tion into agriculture. And economically, it has
natural and the social are unfolded into particu- been argued, environmental cooperatives in-
lar forms and relations through co-production volve the creation of new rural districts that

Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
Reconnecting Nature, Farming and Society 97

reconnect economy and ecology, thereby turn- tant to agree on requested exemptions from
ing co-production into a well-understood self- generic regulations.
interest of the involved farming population. In While the policy experiment was in some
short, environmental cooperatives are a farmers’ ways a recognition of the potential for environ-
movement to reconstitute rural nature (Renting, mental cooperatives, a major drawback has been
forthcoming) and to restore the ‘middle land- that other cooperatives (besides the eight ‘cho-
scape’ that gets increasingly crushed between sen ones’) were thrown back onto their own
urbanity and wilderness (Vos, 2000). resources. Requests for support were frequently
The success of environmental cooperatives turned down, arguing that the approach was ‘no
does not only depend on the efforts of the longer innovative’ and that the results of the
farmers involved, but it also presupposes a re- experiment should be awaited first. The 1999
sponsive and favourable institutional environment. Un- evaluation of the policy experiment indicates
fortunately, the issue of institutional support has that the initial momentum of the movement
become increasingly problematic. When the towards local governance has been seriously
first environmental cooperative was founded in curbed down. The reason for this is certainly
1992, it received a lot of coverage in the na- not that the cooperatives did not meet their part
tional press and the initiative was generally of the deal. Various positive evaluations pro-
applauded. The positive response even resulted duced evidence of the feasibility of the ap-
in a national award and project subsidies from proach (IKC, 1998; Hees, 2000). What seems
the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and to have occurred, rather, is that the ‘fourth
the Environment for the ‘most innovative ap- power’ of bureaucracy managed to block off any
proach in the management of rural areas’. Since option to by-pass the rigid generic regulatory
the number of cooperatives increased subse- framework. Although the Minister for Agricul-
ture assured parliament that the ‘experiment was
quently, developments at the local level appear
to be deepened’, it is also clear that environ-
to have gained too much momentum for respon-
mental cooperatives will receive no official pol-
sible institutions to respond adequately.
icy status and that further exemptions from
While public opinion and the Dutch parlia-
generic regulations are out of the question. A
ment continued to support a further develop- strengthening of the role of the cooperatives
ment of environmental cooperatives, especially only appears to be politically acceptable
within the national Ministry of Agriculture, Na- in programmes for nature and landscape
ture Management and Fisheries doubts were management.
voiced about the trend towards local gover- Of course, this drawback to institutional sup-
nance. Being used to generic policy regulations port does not mean the end of the ‘bottom-up’
that apply everywhere in the same way, legal movement of environmental cooperatives. Or-
experts of the Ministry started to question ganizations continue to be active at the local
whether further development of localized regu- level, and in many cases support of national
latory frameworks could be adequately adminis- state agencies is not needed for this. The future
tered and the results sufficiently monitored. role of environmental cooperatives in rural de-
This was the start of a long period of internal velopment will mainly depend on their capacity
struggle and debate within the Ministry, which to mobilize other actors (including government
tempered much of the initial enthusiasm of the agencies) and establish alliances at local and
involved cooperatives. Only in 1995 did the regional levels. We should not forget that the
Minister for Agriculture give a ‘green light’ to an rise of environmental cooperatives is undeniably
experimental policy status,6 initially assigned to in line with general tendencies in European and
five and later extended to eight environmental international policy towards more decentralized,
cooperatives. A plan of action was negotiated participative and integrated approaches, as was
for each cooperative, specifying the activities also recognized in an Organization for Eco-
for an experimental period of 4 years. Although nomic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
various demands were approved, it was clear study on cooperative approaches to sustainable
from the start that the Ministry was very reluc- agriculture:
Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
98 H. Renting and J.D. van der Ploeg

The more or less spontaneous formation of farmer- direct environment of valuable landscape ele-
led eco-cooperatives in the early 1990s, and their ments (designated as ‘acid-sensitive object’). In
subsequent evolution into laboratories of govern- the context of the Frisian Woodlands this would
ment policy, are both consistent with Dutch insti- have serious repercussions: the high density of
tutional and democratic traditions. From the
hedgerows, ponds etc. implied in practice that
Government’s perspective, the emergence of these
groups has proved a useful vehicle for mobilizing agricultural development would be completely
farmer commitment to environmental protection, ‘frozen’. The regulation caused strong feelings of
and for finding ways to shift more responsibility injustice in the farming community:
over the implementation of environmental policy We are being punished for the fact that we main-
to local communities. (OECD, 1998, p. 59) tained the landscape created by our forefathers.
The more environmental cooperatives develop Farmers who destroyed the landscape elsewhere
into a new kind of districts, embedded in a have no problem of expanding further and in fact
multitude of local and regional relationships, the are rewarded. The government turns the landscape
more irrelevant the position of the Ministry will into a stone around our necks.
be. It might very well be that environmental While some farmers seriously threatened to up-
cooperatives further strengthen their practices root their hedgerows, others pursued a more
along these lines, leaving the Ministry as a constructive solution. Arguing that active man-
spectator on the side-lines of what rural devel- agement was in fact far more important for the
opment in the Dutch countryside is really continuity of the landscape than acid deposi-
about. It is also not unthinkable that a change of tion, the following deal was proposed. Farmers
political climate may put the phenomenon back committed themselves to maintain and even
to the centre of the national policy agenda. increase their efforts for preserving nature and
landscape on the condition that these same
elements would not be considered as ‘acid-sensi-
Appendix: the story of two tive objects’. After a period of negotiation,
environmental cooperatives in the involving local, provincial and national
Frisian Woodlands governments, the deal proposed by the farmers
was accepted.
Vereniging Eastermar’s Lânsdouwe (VEL) and The deal over the ‘ecological guideline’ was
Vereniging Agrarisch Natuur en Landschapsbe- the birth of the first environmental coopera-
heer Achtkarspelen (VANLA) (both founded in tives. Since then, VEL and VANLA established
1992) are amongst the first environmental coop- excellent working relations with many organiza-
eratives. They are located in the Frisian Wood- tions in the area, including various state agen-
lands —a region characterised by a beautiful cies, ecology groups (VEL received the annual
man-made landscape in which hedgerows of award of the provincial federation of ecology
different kinds dominate the scenery. These groups), private conservation agencies and
landscape structures are important carriers of a tourist entrepreneurs. The range of activities
range of ecological values. The region belongs was extended, essentially involving similar deals.
to the best-preserved small-scale landscapes in As part of the ‘nature track’, new schemes for
the Netherlands, largely because of the tradi- nature and landscape management were de-
tionally strong involvement of farmers in its signed and applied massively by member farms.
management. Along the ‘environmental track’, new exceptions
To counter possible detrimental effects of were negotiated and obtained for 4 years from
ammonia deposition (‘acid rain’) on valuable the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Manage-
landscape elements, the national government ment and Fisheries. Under strict conditions,
introduced several regulations in the early member farms were exempted from the obliga-
1990s. The most important of these — known as tion to inject manure on grassland, another
the ‘ecological guideline’— stipulated that ani- regulation that resulted in increased pressure on
mal husbandry had to be severely limited in the the small-scale landscape since it could only be
Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Environ. Policy Plann. 3: 85–101 (2001)
Reconnecting Nature, Farming and Society 99

applied with large machinery. Farmers were al- Reilly, 1995) are also essential in understanding
lowed to continue spreading manure in tradi- the construction of public opinions on food and
tional ways, on the condition that they actively agriculture.
participated in projects to reduce nitrogen losses 3. One of the most dramatic (and highly damaging
in alternative ways. To this purpose, the envi- politically) effects of the generic approach is that
ronmental cooperatives organized study groups, it also blocks the positive ‘moves forward’ pro-
posed by many farmers. Practical solutions other
developed new machinery for manure applica-
than those contained in the prescribed policies
tion adapted to the small-scale landscape and are considered impossible and even illegal. The
started on-farm experiments to improve the proposals themselves, such as alternative ways of
closing of nutrient cycles at farm level by pro- tackling environmental pollution, are often per-
ducing ‘high quality manure’. ceived by state officials as new ways to sabotage
VEL and VANLA are now blossoming organi- prevailing policy regulations.
zations with more than 200 farm members in 4. The term environmental ‘cooperative’ is rather
total. In the case of VEL, member farms repre- confusing. It was first introduced by G. van Dijk,
sent 1600 of the 2000 ha of farmland in the area Director of the National Council of Cooperatives,
covered by the cooperative. VANLA covers a who, in view of the strong cooperative tradition
similar acreage in a wider area of 6000 ha. in the Netherlands, proposed that new forms of
Sources: De Bruin & Ploeg (1991); Renting et cooperative management might be an effective
al. (1994); VEL (1994); VEL & VANLA (2000). means to address changing policy contexts (Dijk,
1990). Since then the term has become common
use in reference to newly emerging farmers’ asso-
ciations. In reality, ‘environmental cooperatives’
Notes are legally organized as cooperatives only in ex-
ceptional cases. Most of them are associations or
1. Distrust is the opposite of trust. Distrust might be societies.
characterized as an institutionalized lack of faith 5. In this respect, it is telling that several environ-
in ‘the system’ (Galjart, 1998). Trust and conse- mental cooperatives located outside areas desig-
quently distrust (as sociological concepts) do not nated for territorial policy schemes struggled to
refer to interpersonal relations—they refer above ‘upgrade’ the policy status of the areas they cover,
all to the relations between persons and institu- thereby getting access to new policy measures
tions, where the latter might be represented by and corresponding state budgets. An example is
artefacts (e.g. traffic lights), rules (e.g. traffic the VEL cooperative, the area of which was
rules) and organizational structures (e.g. police). initially designated as a ‘brown’ area, implying
Trust makes complex systems (e.g. the traffic that specialized agriculture would be the priority
system) function. When a traffic light changes type of land use. As proposed by the cooperative,
from red to green, I can accelerate without watch- the area was reclassified as ‘blue’, implying stricter
ing and studying the drivers on the left and the guidelines for the protection of nature and land-
right. I ‘trust’ the green symbol, because I am sure scape, but also implying access to measures for
that others will also react according to the traffic supporting farm diversification.
lights system. The notions of trust and distrust are 6. Please note that in the same period the general
especially relevant when linked to the notion of policy goals regarding environment, nature and
expert system—that is, ‘a system of technical
landscape (as endorsed by environmental cooper-
accomplishment [and] professional expertise that
atives) were under heavy attack by radical right-
organises large areas of the material and social
wing farmers organizations.
environments in which we live today’ (Giddens,
1990, p. 27). Ministries of Agriculture are func-
tioning as expert systems nowadays. For an exten-
sive discussion, see Ploeg (1999). References
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