What do the state departments of Agriculture and Conservation have in common?

They have somewhat similar funding streams, missions that deal with parallel responsibilities and an orientation toward preservation involving out-of-doors issues.

And soon they may have just one commissioner and staff to oversee them. That’s because Republican Gov. Paul LePage, like his predecessor, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, wants to merge the two departments for more efficient operation.

Baldacci, in fact, tried to merge all four state departments with natural resource missions, but failed to persuade legislators. LePage, however, made it plain in his announcement last week that he isn’t seeking consolidation for economic reasons, but for a more efficient allocation of pooled resources and personnel.

The plan has support from the LePage appointees who head up both departments. Walter Whitcomb, commissioner of agriculture, and William Beardsley, commissioner of conservation, say they back the merger that would eliminate one of their jobs.

Conservation is a much bigger department than agriculture, with responsibility for oversight, development and protection of 17 million acres of forest, 10.4 million acres of unorganized territories and state parks and public lands.

Agriculture, which deals with supporting farmers, helping to find markets for their products and ensuring food safety, has a much smaller budget. Nevertheless, they both deal with natural resources, and that common mission makes it logical and sensible to consider a merger. Several other states combine the responsibilities of these agencies under one roof, and there’s no reason Maine couldn’t, too.

The merger would be of greatest benefit to agriculture, officials said, because that department has less staff and its members are sometimes hard-pressed to fulfill all their responsibilities. Gaining resources would help out in some critical areas, they said.

The only problem — but it’s the factor that sank Baldacci’s initiative — is that both agencies have constituencies that in the past have expressed worries about losing a single agency dedicated to their concerns.

If they can be shown that service will improve, however, perhaps they can be brought around to see the idea is beneficial for them and for the state.