The European Commission has approved a further 18 Rural Development Programmes (RDPs).

However among the programmes approved today was not Ireland’s which may not be approved until March, according to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

The Minister said the problem for the Commission is that they have 118 different Rural Development Programmes that they are trying to get approval for and Ireland is one of them.

With this being the case the Minister stated the Department of Agriculture has looked for an alternative way of getting schemes open anticipating RDP approval at some stage in the first half of next year or hopefully towards end of the first quarter of next year.

“What I have discussed with the Commissioner and what they have checked out from a legal perspective is whether or not we could get a letter of cover or comfort saying that they are happy with our scheme in principal, but the formal approval will take a bit longer.”

These 18 programmes approved toady will see funding worth €14.3 billion from the EU budget, which will be co-financed by further public funding at national/regional level and/or private funds.

Coming after the nine programmes cleared in December, today’s adoptions bring the number of approved RDPs up to 27 (out of 118 programmes), meaning that programmes worth more than €35 billion (roughly 36% of the budget) have now been approved.

EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan said one of the great strengths of our Rural Development concept is that we have core priorities, but it is up to each Member State or region to design a programme which suits its situation and challenges – whether this is the Azores, the Åland islands, Flanders or Slovakia.

Today’s programmes, he said, offer funding for a range of dynamic projects, varying from modernisation projects for agriculture in the Baltic Republics, and encouraging more young farmers to enter the sector in Slovenia, to specific schemes to improve water quality in the Netherlands or protecting 2.5m hectares of farmland in England through environmental land management schemes.

“Boosting the knowledge base of our farm sector is an important aspect of the RDPs. I am pleased to confirm that the 18 programmes adopted today will, together, provide more than one million places on training courses.”