The governments want to ensure that there is enough food for their people even if international food trade breaks down (for example due to trade war, war, or famine).
A secondary objective is that they want low food prices to make food affordable to people with low/medium income. Politicians that drive up food prices for the masses are less likely to get reelected.
Finally there is the effect on the outside world. This has not been of high concern, but in recent years the issue has been raised by various groups that promote equal rights for developing countries.
But, without subsidies, would there not be enough farming?
Less would be produced in the EU, more would be imported. So the decrease in the EU production would picked up by other countries.
Or is it that prices would be too high?
That is the second concern.
what would that land be used for?
Some land would be used for crops that are less labor-intensive. Land that isn't appropriate for such crops would be disused. Example: grape vineyards situated on steep hills could be disused or become grazing for sheep/goats.
Is not protectionism a cheaper approach?
It probably would be. It would not meet the objectives, though.
With protectionism, the prices will drop sharply as soon as there is a surplus in production. With a surplus, the EU price will equal the world market price. With a shortage, the EU price will equal world market price + trade tariffs. For subsidies there is no such sharp drop at the equilibrium point. Thus, the EU food production will be lower under protectionism than under subsidies.
I think the proper counter-factual needs to be accounted for. All that money could have been used for something else.
It is clear that the cost (=price + subsidy) of food is increased. By a fairly large amount. Some of that money is being spent for political reasons, because some of the products that receive subsidies aren't really vital to avoid starvation or malnutrition.