Stimulus Includes Funding for USDA Modernization and Biofuels

Senate takes up stimulus package.

An $819 billion stimulus package has made some progress in Congress passing the House by a 244-188 straight party vote. Despite calls from both sides of the aisle and the Obama Administration for quick action, all Republican and 11 Democratic representatives voted against the bill.

There's considerable concern about the package on the part of many Senators, especially Republicans. The Senate is taking up their own version this week, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he doesn't see the bill passing.

The House version of the bill included a number of funding items for agricultural priorities.
The bill included $245 million for Farm Service Agency information technology systems considered necessary to implement the 2008 Farm Bill and $209 million for Agricultural Research Service facilities across the country. ARS has a list of deferred maintenance projects at its facilities worth roughly $315 million.

Other funding items included $500 million for pilot or demonstration biofuel projects; $100 million to guarantee $2 billion in loans for farming, ethanol production and other rural business activities; $8 billion to guarantee up to $80 billion in loans for proven renewable and transmission technologies; $2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development and deployment; and $1.5 billion to support $3.8 billion in grants and loans to help rural communities fund drinking water and wastewater treatment systems.

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