Although the CAP was very successful in meeting its objective of moving the EU towards self-sufficiency, by the 1980s the EU had to contend with almost permanent surpluses of the major farm commodities, some of which were exported (with the help of subsidies), others of which had to be stored or disposed of within the EU.
These measures had a high budgetary cost, distorted some world markets, did not always serve the best interests of farmers and became unpopular with consumers and taxpayers.
At the same time society became increasingly concerned about the environmental sustainability of agriculture.
The mandate of 30 May 1980
On 30 May 1980, the Council decided that structural changes needed to be made and gave the Commission a mandate to bring forward proposals of reform of the common policies. The Commission reported on 24 June 1981, suggesting measures to reform and adapt the CAP without departing from its basic principles. Between July and October the Commission enlarged upon these suggestions.
- Commission Communication: "Reflections on the common agricultural policy" (08/12/1980)
- "Commission Report on the Mandate of 30 May 1980" (24/06/1981)
- "Guidelines for European agriculture - Memorandum to complement the Commission's Report on the Mandate of 30 May" (23/10/1981)
The introduction of the milk quota in 1984
In 1984 and following the Commission proposals of July 1983, the production quota system, already applied to sugar, was extended to milk, in order to limit the surplus of production in the Community.
- Commission Communication: "Further guidelines for the development of the common agricultural policy" (20/06/1983)
- Commission Communication: "Common agricultural policy - Commission report and proposals" (28/07/1983)
- Commission Communication: "Economic effects of the agri-monetary system (updated to 1984)" (26/04/1984)
The Green Paper
In January 1985, the new Commission decided to launch a general debate on the perspectives of the CAP and put its reflections in the form of a consultative document ('green paper'). Taking account of the views expressed in the course of the debate, the Commission presented its conclusions at the end of 1985.
- Commission Communication: "Perspectives for the common agricultural policy" (Green paper) (15/07/1985)
- Commission Communication: "A future for Community agriculture - Commission guidelines following the consultations in connection with the Green Paper" (18/12/1985)
The introduction of budget stabilisers in 1988
In 1988, the budgetary guidelines set a maximum ceiling for the CAP budget based on: 'stabilisers' that set a maximum limit on quantities guaranteed to receive support payments, and a new approach to Community structural policy that favoured a more effective, global strategy for rural and less favoured areas and a closer coordination between the Guidance Section and other Structural Funds.
- Commission Note: "Agriculture in the world context" (20/06/1986)
- Commission Communication: "Review of action taken to control the agricultural markets and outlook for the common agricultural policy" (03/08/1987)
- Commission Report: "Economic effects of the agri-monetary system (updated 1987)" (14/08/1987)
- Commission Communication: "Environment and agriculture" (08/06/1988)
- Commission Communication: "The future of rural society" (29/09/1988)
- Commission proposal for a Council regulation on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs (06/12/1989) - see Council Regulation (EEC) no 2092/91 on organic production of agricultural products
- Commission Communication: "Organizations and agreements linking different branches with the agricultural sector" (26/10/1990)