Abstract In the European Union (EU), two major recent changes have been framing the development of agricultural regulation. First, a decentralization trend can be observed in most of the member states, resulting from both national and EU policies: the modernization of state apparatus combines with the 'subsidiarity' principle of the EU which assumes that policy decisions have to be decentralized as much as is rationally and functionally possible. Second, changes in agricultural policies, shifting from market support to rural development (the 'Second Pillar' of the CAP) and then to multiple forms of support for the multifunctionality of agriculture, are resulting in a renewed policy framework, generally directed by the EU and implemented differently in the member states and regions. A cross-examination of these parallel trends is necessary to answer some basic questions, mainly: is there a change in the regional frameworks which organize the regulation of agriculture? What kind of differences can be observed in several European regions and how can these differences be explained? What is the particular shape of this evolution in the regions of a semi-centralized country like France? To answer these questions, field and institutional data have been collected in several European regions: Rhone-Alpes (France) as a central reference for the analysis, and other regions located in Germany, Spain and the United-Kingdom.