Bill Gates to Buy Thousands of Acres of North Dakota Farmland Worth $13.5M
The land purchase raised legal questions
Bill Gates has been granted legal approval for the purchase of thousands of acres of prime North Dakota farmland amid an outcry from the state's residents.
The state's Republican Attorney General Drew Wrigley issued a letter after enquiring into the land sale saying the transaction complied with an archaic anti-corporate farming law.
The Depression-era law prohibits corporations from owning farmland or ranchland, however, it allows individual trusts to own the land if it's leased to farmers, which is what Gates intends to do.
The billionaire's holdings make up only about one percent of the nearly 900 million total farm acres in the U.S.
The land purchase raised legal questions as well as concerns that ultrarich landowners do not share the state's values.
Gates' firm, Red River Trust, purchased $13.5 million worth of land from wealthy northeastern North Dakota potato growers Campbell Farms.
In the deal, around 2100 acres of land were sold.
However, the Campbell family in February filed a partnership name certificate with the North Dakota secretary of state, naming their operation the Red River Trust - the same name as Gates' firm.
An attorney for Gates' firm wrote to the attorney general´s office that the Campbells registered the name without his knowledge.
As The Daily Mail reported:
North Dakota's Agriculture Commissioner, Republican Doug Goehring, previously said that many people feel they are being exploited by the ultra-rich who buy land but do not necessarily share the state's values.
"I've gotten a big earful on this from clear across the state, it's not even from that neighborhood," Goehring told KFYR-TV.
"Those people are upset, but there are others that are just livid about this."
The Mail also noted:
Corporations are exempted from the ownership ban if the land is necessary 'for residential or commercial development; the siting of buildings, plants, facilities, industrial parks, or similar business or industrial purposes of the corporation or limited liability company; or for uses supportive of or ancillary to adjacent non agricultural land for the benefit of both land parcels,' the law reads.
A federal judge in 2018 ruled the law constitutional after a conservative farm group argued that it limits business options for producers and interferes with interstate commerce by barring out-of-state corporations from being involved in North Dakota's farm industry.
North Dakota Republican Governor Doug Burgum, a former Microsoft executive whose campaign received $100,000 from Microsoft co-founder Gates when Burgum first won in 2016, declined to comment on the farmland sale.
The Republican governor stayed down the middle when asked his opinion of the anti-corporate farming law, which he and the Legislature expanded in 2019 to allow second cousins in the mix of ownership.
"The governor strongly supports family farms and is open to discussions about cutting red tape that puts North Dakota farmers at a disadvantage compared with neighboring states and ensuring that our ranchers and farmers can succeed and grow their operations, helping rural communities to thrive," Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.
As of 2021, Gates's largest holdings in the U.S. includes:
- 69,071 acres in Louisiana
- 47,927 acres in Arkansas
- 25,750 acres in Arizona
- 20,588 acres in Nebraska
- 16,097 in Washington state