The North Dakota Attorney General’s office is investigating a land transaction involving one of the biggest farmland owners in America, billionaire Bill Gates.
In a letter dated June 21, Attorney General Drew Wrigley’s office asked the Red River Trust, an entity connected to Gates, about a recent purchase of a multi-thousand-acre potato farm, according to local news KFYR.
Wrigley’s office informed the trust that all corporations or limited liability companies are strictly “prohibited from owning or leasing farmland or ranchland in the state of North Dakota” and “engaging in farming or ranching.”
“In addition, the law places certain limitations on the ability of trusts to own farmland or ranchland,” the letter said.
Red River Trust has 30 days to respond from June 21 to Kerrie Helm, the AG’s Corporate Farming Enforcement Division, about the farm purchase.
“Our office needs to confirm how your company uses this land and whether this use meets any of the statutory exceptions, such as the business purpose exception, so that we may close this case and file it in our inactive files,” the letter continued.
A corporation or LLC “found in violation” of the anti-corporate farming laws could face harsh penalties, such as a $100k fine and one year to divest the land.
AgWeek revealed the trust spent $13.5 million on a 2,100-acre potato farm in Pembina County in November 2021.
North Dakota AG Commissioner Doug Goehring told KFYR that many people across the state are “upset” and “livid” about the billionaire purchasing farmland.
Over the years, Gates has quietly amassed 270,000 acres of farmland across the country through personal investment vehicles, though still a small slice of the nearly 900 million total farm acres.
Gates isn’t alone. Other billionaires, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, have recently increased farmland holdings.
Could this be why billionaires are buying so much farmland?
Rockefeller Foundation President did warn a “massive, immediate food crisis” is on the horizon.