“We can have all the conservation and farm stewardship programs in the world,” says Ralph Grossi, President of American Farmland Trust (AFT), “but without adequate funding, they become nothing but lost opportunities for cleaner air and water, improved wildlife habitat and protected farmland and open space.” Grossi commented on a letter sent to President Bush that AFT and more than 20 other organizations signed. “The conservation provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill are clearly improving the environment as the most robust conservation title ever enacted, more could have been achieved had Congress and the Administration fully funded conservation programs at the levels negotiated and agreed to in the 2002 Farm Bill,” they write.

“Many people do not realize that nearly half the land in American is working farm and ranchland,” says AFT President Ralph Grossi. “Using this land to produce food, fiber and energy has an enormous impact on our natural and human environment. Current conservation levels are insufficient to meet the needs of farmers-so while farmers and ranchers want to protect the land, three out of every four who apply for conservation funding are turned down due to a lack of funds.”

In their letter to President Bush, the organizations noted that application backlogs at the end of FY 2005 totaled more than $2.5 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Grassland Reserve Program, the Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. In addition, farmers and ranchers in 88 percent of the nation’s watersheds have not yet had even their first chance to enroll in the Conservation Security Program.

AFT proposed comprehensive recommendations to improve U.S. farm policy and strengthen the future of American agriculture in its: Agenda 2007: A New Framework and Direction for U.S. farm policy, including numerous conservation proposals. Specific recommendations for natural resources conservation in Agenda 2007 include: simplifying the conservation application process to make it easier for farmers and ranchers to participate in current programs; doubling the funding for working lands conservation to help farmers and ranchers care for our nation’s resources; and creating a conservation loan guarantee program to help producers finance additional conservation programs.

American Farmland Trust is a national nonprofit organization working with communities and individuals to protect the best land, plan for growth with agriculture in mind and keep the land healthy. As the leading advocate for farm and ranch land conservation, AFT has ensured that more than a million acres stays bountiful and productive.

AFT’s national office is located in Washington, D.C., and the phone number is 202-331-7300.

For more information, visit www.farmland.org.