Bill Gates Is Now the Biggest Farmland Owner
The Land Report announced that multibillionaire Bill Gates currently holds the title as America’s biggest private farmland owner. He owns 242,000 acres, nearly 52,000 more than the next largest farmland owner. To put this in perspective, 52,000 is equal to 39,325 football fields, including the end zones. His farmland (approximately 378.125 square miles) would rank in total land mass as the eighth largest city in the U.S. in 2010.
It was Eric O’Keefe from the Land Report who ferreted out the story after reading that 14,500 acres of choice farmland in Benton County, Washington, had been sold for $171 million, or nearly $12,000 per acre. O’Keefe describes the area as “some of the richest farmland in the Lower 48,” that “savvy investors have been plowing millions of dollars into.”
Although the seller was listed as John Hancock Life Insurance, the buyer was reported as a limited liability company from Louisiana. Digging deeper and engaging their research team, he discovered the paper trail led to a company managed by Michael Larson, manager of the Gates’ personal portfolio and much of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the last 25 years.
Larson primarily uses Cascade Investment LLC as the entity through which he manages their personal portfolio. O’Keefe details the sequence in which the land changed hands over 10 years. The largest single block of farmland was quietly acquired by Cascade in 2017, one year after it was purchased by a Canadian firm.
The sale was revealed in the Canadian firm’s quarterly statement, in which they reported offloading $520 million in farmland offered in a single block. An investigative journalist ultimately found the half-billion-dollar sale led to Cascade Investment LLC.