“I am proud to stand with conservationists from all 50 states as we call for a strong Conservation Title in the 2012 farm bill,” says Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust (AFT). “We must have the most robust conservation spending possible to give farmers the programs they need to protect our farm and ranch land and to help keep our soils, water and other natural resources in the best condition possible.”

American Farmland Trust has joined with more than 640 organizations to send a letter supporting the Conservation Title to the Senate and House leadership of the Agriculture Committees.

This diverse group — representing landowners, farmers, ranchers, forest managers, agricultural and forest businesses, hunters and anglers, local and state government officials, and non-profit organizations — knows first-hand the importance of conservation programs for the economic and environmental health of rural America. As the letter says, “The result is real conservation with multiple benefits for every region of America. Not the least of these is helping landowners to stay on the land as stewards of America’s legacy of natural resources.”

The letter reminds Congress that Conservation Title programs are implemented in unique partnerships — and cooperative conservation agreements — between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and private landowners. This time-tested and successful model helps make conservation an engine of economic growth by advancing agriculture, forestry and outdoor recreation.

The organizations recognize that difficult decisions will be made while Congress works to reduce the federal deficit, noting, “…the proposal by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees in the Budget Control Act last year demonstrates that the Conservation Title can continue to meet vital national needs while sharing in budget reductions.” At the same time, this letter is a clear indication of the importance of continued support for the Conservation Title. “We must keep moving forward, despite the fiscal challenges,” says Scholl.

“It’s time to recognize that the Conservation Title is a crucial strategic investment that underpins our health and prosperity today — one that will only gain in importance as we face increasing agricultural and environmental challenges in coming decades,” Scholl concludes.