The European Commission has today approved the first three of 118 Rural Development Programmes.

EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan made the announcement that Denmark, Poland and Austria's Rural Development Programmes were approved.

The Rural Development Programmes are aimed at improving the competitiveness of the EU farming sector, caring for the countryside and climate, and strengthening the economic and social fabric of rural communities in the period until 2020.

He said the three programmes account for roughly 22% of the €95.6bn of total EU funding over the period 2014-2020 through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and will draw in additional national, regional and private finance.

"One of the great strengths of our Rural Development concept is that we have six core priorities, but it is up to each Member State or region to design programmes which suit their situation. And we see good examples of this today where the Polish programme is aiming to create more than 22 000 jobs," Commissioner Phil Hogan said.

He also said that expenditure on Rural Development contributes to the overall European objectives and in terms of jobs and growth. The agri food sector employs 46m and accounts for €110nn of food and drink exports from Europe, he said.

Agriculture, he said, is no longer about primary production. In Poland in excess of 22,000 jobs will be created from Rural Development investment. the RDP affects all aspects of society, he said, and the benefits are felt by more than just rural living people.