— The 2016 census revealed that Virginia is the top state for rural development spending, according to an analysis of federal data released Thursday.
It’s an important distinction, since many rural counties in the state are heavily reliant on federal programs that provide grants to rural businesses.
In addition to providing subsidies, the government has provided rural development grants to more than 3,000 rural businesses over the years, including $3.3 billion in federal grants in 2016 alone.
It also funded nearly 4,000 schools and community colleges over the past decade, according a review of census data by the nonprofit Rural Development Center of Virginia, or RDCCV.
RDCCVA has worked to track rural development and to provide education and outreach to rural communities.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture (VDA) is the largest funder of RDCC, providing $1.3 million over the next 10 years, according the analysis.
The largest grant is for the state’s Rural Development Partnership, which provides $250,000 for rural education, community college and vocational training, RDCC said.
Other grants are $500,000 in 2019 for an RDCC-funded school and $750,000 to improve the quality of life for Virginia’s poor, the group said.
But the RDCC report found that the VDA’s rural development program was only the largest single funder for rural business in 2016.
The RDCC found that nearly $1 billion was provided to rural business through the Rural Development Program through 2016.
That’s more than all but two states — Texas and Alabama — combined.
The VA Rural Development Department did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
In Virginia, rural business has contributed nearly $6 billion to the state economy in recent years, RDTCVA said.
The RDCC analyzed the grant money and found that VA provided grants to nearly 7,000 businesses over five years.
The rural development office provides grants to all eligible businesses in the county and can apply for up to $50,000 of the money.
The office uses this money to buy equipment, install equipment and staff staff.
The program has been lauded by both Democrats and Republicans.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, a trade group for farmers, said in a statement that RDCC “provides a vital lifeline to rural America.
We look forward to supporting the program’s success and helping to bring economic opportunity to millions of rural Americans in the Commonwealth.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.
Va.), who has been critical of the VCA’s rural office, said RDCC should “stop wasting the money” and “invest it in the people who need it.”
He said the VA Rural development program has a “significant impact on the quality and quantity of rural land in Virginia.”
He added that VA should focus on “paying the bills, not funding the rural development enterprise.”
Manchin is the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.