Microsoft co-owner, Bill Gates, is the fourth wealthiest person in the world. He is also the top private farmland owner in the country having acquired more than 242,000 acres of farmland across the United States.
According to research done by The Land Report, a magazine published by the Realtors Land Institute, Bill and Melinda Gates obtained “an estimated 242,000 acres of farmland” overall. The report states that their farmland portfolio stretches across 18 states.
The Gates’ largest holdings include about 69,000 acres in Louisiana, 47,000 acres in Arkansas, 20,000 acres in Nebraska and more, according to The Land Report.
“It is not entirely clear how Gates’ farmland is being used, or whether any of the land is being set aside for conservation,” Forbes noted. Cascade Investments, Gates’ personal investment company, did not return Forbes’ request for comment. Although many in the media have reached out for comment, a spokesperson for Cascade has also declined to comment on The Land Report.
“However, there is some indication that the land could be used in a way that aligns with the foundation’s values. Cottonwood Ag Management, a subsidiary of Cascade, is a member of Leading Harvest, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable agriculture standards that prioritize protections of crops, soil, and water resources,” according to Forbes.
According to The Land Report, it appears the Gates’ started to purchase farmland relatively recently.
“The Gateses’ largest single block of dirt was acquired in 2017: a group of farmland assets owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Based in Toronto, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board began assembling an agricultural portfolio in 2013, when it acquired AgCoA, aka, Agricultural Company of America,” the report noted. “This private U.S. farmland [Real Estate Investment Trust] was a joint venture between Duquesne Capital Management and Goldman Sachs that launched in 2007. Over the next five years, AgCoA acquired more than 100,000 acres in nine states. By the time it was sold to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in 2013, AgCoA ranked as one of the leading institutional owners of row crop farmland in the U.S.”
Gates also purchased a large stake in about 24,800 acres of land just west of Phoenix, Arizona, Cascade noted.
It is well known that The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been involved in agriculture initiatives in many other countries, including in sub-Saharan African and South Asian.