Who owns the whole land in America

Bill Gates: The largest owner of farmland in the United States

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Land market in the USA
Dr. Olaf Zinke, agricultural today
on Monday, 01/18/2021 - 12:25 PM (1 comment)

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is the largest owner of farmland in the United States.

This was reported by the US magazine "The Land Report" last week. In total, Gates owns around 242,000 acres or almost 100,000 hectares of arable land in the USA - making him the largest private owner of arable land in America.

Most of the land is bought and managed by Gates' own company, Cascade Investments. The farms purchased are scattered across the country - from California to Wisconsin.

According to the report, the prices paid by Cascade for the space are often very high. For the purchase of 5,870 hectares of farmland in Washington state, for example, according to the regional newspaper Tri-City-Herald, $ 171 million flowed - or $ 29,000 per hectare. That is considerably more than the usual local purchase price.

The problems for the local farmers who are willing to buy are obvious: Similar to the large-scale purchases by non-agricultural investors in Germany and elsewhere, the agricultural land prices are driven up in this way and the farmers are pushed out of the market.

100,000 hectares of arable land in various states

The US magazine "The Land Report" reports that Bill Gates, who, according to Forbes, has a net worth of nearly $ 121 billion, has built a huge farmland portfolio in 18 states. In total, Gates owns around 242,000 acres or almost 100,000 hectares of arable land in the US - making it the largest private arable land owner in the US.

According to "The Land Report", the areas are spread over a number of states in which agriculture is of great economic importance. These include: Washington, California, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

The largest Gates companies include operations with 27,952 acres in Louisiana, 19,395 acres in Arkansas, 10,420 acres in Arizona, 8,331 acres in Nebraska and 6,514 acres in Washington State, which is also home to Gates. According to research by The Land Report, the land is held and administered directly and through third parties by Cascade Investments, Gates' personal "investment vehicle".

The purpose of the purchases is not very clear - sustainability?

It may come as a surprise that a tech billionaire is the largest farmland owner in the United States, but buying land on a grand scale in America isn't Gate's only foray into agriculture. Back in 2008, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced investments of USD 306 million to promote high-yield, sustainable agriculture for smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The foundation has invested in the development and distribution of so-called “super crops”, which are supposed to be better equipped against climate change. Last year, the NGO "Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations LLC", better known as "Gates Ag One", announced that it would continue these efforts with further investments.

It's not entirely clear how Gates' farmland is used in the United States, or whether some of the land is being set aside for conservation. Cascade has not yet responded to inquiries from various US business magazines and magazines. However, there are indications that the land could be used in a way that corresponds to the Ag One Foundation's ideas of "sustainable land management".

Cottonwood Ag Management, a subsidiary of Cascade, is a member of "Leading Harvest", also a non-profit organization or NGO that aims to promote sustainable land management standards in the USA. In concrete terms, this means the land managers' "sustainable use" of plants, soil and water resources - whatever that may mean in individual cases.

A lot of money, very high land prices - and Amazon boss Bezos

The first reference to Gates' huge farms was published back in 2014 on a Wall Street Journal profile of Michael Larson, the manager serving as Cascade's chief investment officer. At the time, it was discovered that the company had "at least 100,000 acres of farmland in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and other states - or an area seven times the size of Manhattan."

It is unclear why Gates invested in so much arable land or how its land will be used now and in the future. The Land Report apparently caught the eye when the regional newspaper Tri-City Herald reported on the purchase of 14,500 acres (5,870 hectares) of farmland in Benton County, Washington, in 2018.

At that time, an unbelievable $ 171 million flowed to the seller. In this deal, the hectare cost almost 12,000 US dollars per acre - that's 29,000 US dollars per hectare and is well above the usual market prices (see graphic).

Besides, other tech billionaires own more land than Bill Gates. For example the Amzon boss Jeff Bezos. However, this is not only arable land, but also forest and uncultivated land. Bezos owns more than 420,000 acres of land (170,000 hectares) according to information from the "Land Report", mainly in West Texas, where he is currently busy building and launching spaceships for the Blue Origin program.