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300,000 jobs. Who knows where Sen. Tom Harkin came up with that figure, but the Iowa Democrat says there are programs awaiting funding within the Department of Agriculture that could spawn 300,000 jobs. Most of the money would go to the USDA’s Rural Development agency, which helps build houses, water and sewer systems, wind energy and biofuels.

Chris Clayton, DTN’s Ag Policy Editor, quotes new Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack saying, “USDA is uniquely situated to be quite effective to put resources to play immediately.” Clayton wrote that the stimulus bill currently has “provisions to expand the electrical grid, as well as reduce carbon emissions, increase carbon capture, buy more fuel-efficient mass-transportation buses and reduce diesel emissions.” Vilsack told Clayton that USDA has “programs that are already in existence in the farm bill and other mechanisms that would allow us to begin investing in biofuels and a variety of programs to assist the biofuels and renewable energy.”

Vilsack also talked about broadband access. “We know the areas where there is some broadband access so it’s not like we have to reinvent the wheel with something along those lines,” Vilsack told Clayton. “Through our Rural Development programs we’re well aware of a number of infrastructure projects that could make a difference and create jobs.”

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