This paper describes the evolution of soil erosion perception with policy makers and farmers in Flanders, and how these changes have resulted in the emergence of a soil conservation policy. Until the mid 1990s, soil erosion and its related problems received little attention in the environmental debate. This has changed through increased interest in environmental issues in general, as well as an increasing number of scientific reports on soil erosion and sediment delivery. New legislation that made the sediment problem a big financial issue in 1995, however, was the main reason for the recognition of soil erosion as an environmental problem with the policy makers. Despite the lack of monitoring soil erosion, a soil conservation policy emerged recently, which is clearly represented in the 2001 "soil erosion decree" by the Flemish government. This policy provides important opportunities for soil conservation as it incorporates both scientists and farmers. The involvement of farmers in demonstration projects is crucial with this respect as they have to be convinced about the usefulness and applicability of soil conservation measures. Farmers also participate in the development of a management plan. However, the success of the new policy could be undermined by its rapid development. There is still a lack of data underpinning the status of the erosion problem, and, the goals of the policy are not clearly defined. Furthermore, the administrative organisation is currently not favourable for an optimal co-operation with the farmers. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.