The threat to the existence of the CAP as we know it is very real, according to Lars Hoelgard, deputy Director-General at DG Agriculture. Any eventual settlement of the current budget dispute under 1.14% of GNI, the current Commission draft figure, would hit agricultural spending and even this figure would lead to cuts. Heolgaard commented, 'Something has to give - Pillar 1, although supposedly set in stone, is under threat.'
Even if the draft on the table was accepted, which is not very likely, farm spending would fall from about 45% of the EU budget now to around 35% on 2013. This reflects the fact that, according to Agra Europe 'Of all the EU's policies, the CAP is fast becoming the least fashionable under Commission president Barroso.'
Dairy farming faces particular problems. If a deal on global trade liberalisation is reached at the WTO talks in Hong King in December, the EU may not be able to sustain the required reductions in tariffs, particularly if the dollar remains weak.
One possible response is the debate on farm insurance systems which is attracting increasing attention. It would be an alternative way of safeguarding farmers against income fluctuations. A draft Commission document has been circulating exploring some kind of stabilisation fund. Rural development funds could be used to help farmers to pay insurance premiums up to a maximum of 50% (although this seems to imply using Pillar 2 money to achieve Pillar 1 objectives). Mutual stabilisation funds through producer groups, supplemented by some EU money, are another possibility.