North Dakota’s state attorney general’s office approved Bill Gates’ recent purchase of 2,100 acres of farmland. The attorney general’s office scrutinized the initial investment based on the state’s barring of corporations and limited liability companies from purchasing farmland.
In the state’s original letter to Gates, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley wrote, “Our office needs to confirm how your company uses this land and whether it meets any of the statutory exceptions, such as the business purposes exception.”
U.S. land prices have been soaring, but an aging demographic of farmers may spell opportunity for young and would-be farmers. However, a select few have been able to meet new prices without hesitation. Among these select few is Bill Gates’ Red River Trust, which now owns nearly 270,000 acres of land across the country. Almost 90 percent of this land is farmland, with smaller transitional and recreational area holdings. In total, the trust owns $13.5 million in farm acres.
Although more than 97 percent of American farms are owned by families, the remaining is owned by corporations. Gates is not only the fourth richest man on the planet; he is now the largest private owner of American farmland, according to The Land Report, leaping ahead of Ted Turner by about 70,000 acres.
The farmland that Gates owns is located in 19 states. However, the land held only amasses 1 percent of the total acres of farmland in the United States. Gates is also number 49 on a list of individuals, families, and businesses who own farmland in the states.
What does a technology pioneer want with agriculture? The future is in agri-tech, and Gates believes that he is too. The billionaire launched Gates Ag One through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The nonprofit organization will help to provide access to technologies that will maximize yields and fight climate change in developing countries.
However, since the 2021 report showing how large of a landowner Gates is, many farmers have spoken up in blog posts and on social media uneasy — and in some cases, upset — about Gates’ growing role in the industry. The Land Report’s research insinuates the land is held directly by Gates and also by third party entities, such as Cascade Investments and Red River Trust, that is run by Gates’ investors.
Gates responded to an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit by saying, “The agriculture sector is important. With more productive seeds, we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face. It is unclear how cheap biofuels can be, but if they are cheap it can solve aviation and truck emissions.”