Farmers have been left alarmed by EU proposals for quicker and deeper cuts in support prices for the dairy sector.
The move is part of the Commission's mid-term review to be debated by agricultural ministers shortly.
Although it was not expected to make any radical changes for milk, the Commission claims that budgetary constraints agreed by heads of state in October require drastic action.
The original plan was that the support prices would be cut by 15% over three years from 2005. The latest proposals are that butter intervention prices be cut by 35% and SMP by 17.5% over four years from 2004.The Commission is also proposing to stop the open door' system for butter intervention, setting an annual ceiling of 30,000 tonnes.

n Aussie drought
Severe drought conditions in the main milk producing states of Australia are having a serious effect on the availability of dairy products for export.
This will give EU exporters significant opportunities to step in as alternative suppliers.
According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics, milk output for the current year to June will be down 8% to the lowest level for five years.
Cheese output is also expected to be down nearly 14%, butter 7% and milk powders 6%. Dairy exports are expected to be cut 16%.
n tomato demand
Retailers are still reporting heavy canned tomato sales in spite of price increases.
Argentinean tomato canners have also started to produce product to meet the continuing demand. The 40% shortfall in Italy meant UK importers had been forced to seek supplies from elsewhere. There have been some claims of gazumping' by South American packers which has caused confrontation. However, if the ongoing retail demand is not dampened, there will be shortages before this year's Italian pack is available in September.
n prices may ease
A weaker US dollar helped alleviate the recent dried fruit price rises for European and UK buyers, who are hoping that dried fruit prices may now ease back.
But with the market remaining firm, any weakening in prices is likely to be short lived, observers indicate.
Turkish sultanas prices for specially cleaned no9s are circa $900 per tonne fob Izmir, and trade estimates are placing the harvest at about 185,000 tonnes, which along with carryover should meet demand, although there are some fears over quality.
Greek currant prices are stable, with good quality provisional fruit priced at around 11,350 per tonne fob Piraeus, with vostizzas trading at a premium of some 1180.
There are some concerns about the quality of the fruit after late harvest rains.
Californian raisins are still trading at around 45c per lb c&f Felixstowe.
There are expectations that the January meeting of the Raisin Advisory Committee could result in a price increase which is causing packers to hang back from longer term offers.