Bill Gates is now the largest private farmland owner in the United States, according to a new report. Gates, who is the fourth-richest person in the world, owns an estimated 242,000 acres of farmland, analysis by The Land Report discovered.
The massive land grab by Gates last year gave the tech magnate his first appearance on The Land Report, a magazine that "provides news, information, and insight into America's land for existing and potential landowners."
For the title of America's biggest farmland owner, Gates beat out the Minnesota-based Offutt farming family who owns 190,000 acres. Also with 190,000 acres of farmland is Stewart and Lynda Resnick. The Resnicks, who have a combined net worth of $7.1 billion, are the owners of California-based The Wonderful Company that controls POM Wonderful, bottled water company FIJI Water, Wonderful Pistachios, and Wonderful Halos.
Gates boasts a real estate portfolio that includes landholdings in 19 states. Bill and Melinda Gates own 69,071 acres in Louisiana, 47,927 acres in Arkansas, 20,588 acres in Nebraska, 17,940 acres in Illinois, 16,963 acres in Mississippi, 16,097 acres in Washington, and 14,828 acres in Florida, according to the report.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that there is a total of 897,400,000 acres in farmland in the United States in 2019.
The co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, who has a net worth of $120 billion, reportedly purchased the enormous land resources directly and through "dozens" of third-party entities, principally via Cascade Investment LLC.
The Land Report 100 Research Team stated that Michael Larson, who "operates primarily through an entity called Cascade Investment LLC.," has "managed the Gateses' personal portfolio as well as the considerable holdings of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation" for the last 25 years.
Cascade Investment LLC., a holding and investment company headquartered in Kirkland, Washington, holds a large number of shares in prominent companies such as Berkshire Hathaway, Canadian National Railway, Coca-Cola FEMSA, Ecolab, and Waste Management.
In 2017, Cascade Investment purchased a "significant stake" in 24,800 acres of transitional land outside of Phoenix. Through Cascade, Gates invested $80 million in developing the Belmont suburb to have "80,000 homes, 3,800 acres of industrial, office and retail space, 3,400 acres of open space and 470 acres for public schools," as reported by the Arizona Republic in 2017.
Also in 2017, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $300 million over three years to farmers in Africa and Asia to "support agricultural research that will help the world's poorest farmers better adapt to increasingly challenging growing conditions brought about by climate change, including rising temperatures, extreme weather patterns (droughts and floods), diseases, poor soil fertility, and attacks from crop pests."
Gates is far from the biggest landowner in the U.S. That title belongs to billionaire businessman and philanthropist John Malone, who topped The Land Report's 100 largest landowners list in 2019 with 2.2 million acres of land.