Due to changes in the aspirations of citizens, new social and economic conditions and the emergence of novel technologies, it is necessary, from time to time, to adjust and update the Common Agricultural Policy. This is the process of reform.
There have been several reforms of the policy. The first major reform was designed by Commissioner Ray MacSharry in 1992. The reform reduced the level of price support. To prevent a corresponding fall in the incomes of farmers, direct payments were introduced.
In 2003, during the tenure of Commissioner Franz Fischler, specific direct payment schemes were incorporated into a single payment scheme, direct payments were decoupled from production and a number of new mechanisms were introduced (such as cross-compliance, modulation, degressivity, the financial discipline mechanism, farm advisory services and good agricultural and environmental conditions).
In 2009, during the tenure of Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, there was an adjustment of the Common Agricultural Policy (the "health check"). The functioning of the single payment scheme was simplified, the decoupling of direct payments was extended, the scope of cross-compliance was adjusted and set-aside was definitively abolished.
In 2013, during the tenure of Commissioner Dacian Cioloş, the policy was reformed to make it both greener (direct payments to farmers were subjected to greater environmental conditionality) and fairer (level of direct payments to farmers were made more equal within and between member states). Specific payments were introduced to assist young farmers.
A reform generally proceeds by the following steps: the publication of a discussion paper (known as a communication) by the European Commission; a period of public consultation with stakeholders - that is, with the general public and all other interested parties; the submission of legislative proposals by the European Commission to the Council and the European Parliament together with an impact assessment; the discussion by the Council and Parliament of the legislative proposals; and, finally, the adoption by the Council and the Parliament and publication of the legislative proposals in the form of binding regulations.