The secret handshake in 2.6 is .....
2.6 has a number of changes as you note.... I found a similar issue but USB does work ;-) It just doesn't do it tranparently like it did in 2.4 .
Try loading the usb modules by hand and see if it works. I've gotten my Epson to scan that way. I haven't quite figured out how to get it all to load from the kernel like in 2.4 but since I use the scanner only a couple of times a month, it hasn't been high on my list of "to do's".
I also built the USB controler into my 2.6 kernel. Needed ? Not really but I got tired of manual loading of it ;-)
Anyway - try loading the modules by hand and see if it doesn't work. I'm sure someone else has solved the kernel loading issue but I haven't seen it yet ...