Ministers considered how to strike the right balance between market-oriented production on the one hand and economic viability of agriculture in the EU on the other hand. The recent dairy crisis suggests that the market may not have all the answers and that existing tools to stabilise farmers' income are still very much needed.
The Council discussed other ways to help farmers overcome extreme market conditions or crisis situations. Creating income insurance schemes, strengthening producer organisations and setting up a crisis fund were among the suggestions made.
Due to the globalisation, increasing openness of markets and the effects of climate change, European farmers are facing growing price volatility and more frequent crisis situations. The common agricultural policy provides for a "safety net" of market and crisis management tools (intervention, public storage, export refunds) that help farmers stay in business in difficult times. At the same time, the CAP aims to improve the competitiveness of European farmers, so that they can cope more easily with increasing liberalisation of agricultural trade. If an agreement is reached in the Doha round on trade liberalisation, export refunds will disappear and import tariffs for non-EU agricultural products will be reduced.