Bill Gates has faced criticism from some farmers and environmentalists for his investments in large areas of farmland.
Bill Gates appears to be the largest individual owner of agricultural land in the United States by virtue of the tens of thousands of acres purchased in his and ex-wife’s, Melinda Gates’, names. Some believe that this passion for owning vegetable-grown land is due to the interest of one of the world’s most important wealthy people in the environment, but is this the only reason the founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s most famous technicians is after for agricultural land?
NBC News reported that the Gateses had acquired more than 269,000 acres of farm in the United States in the past ten years. Those purchases, made with the help of the Washington-based firm Cascade Investment and a number of shell companies, include farmland in nearly 20 states, with assets of over $690 million.
The Land Report, the agricultural investment specialist, reported at the beginning of 2021 that the tech billionaire and his wife were major owners of private farmland in the country. According to the Agricultural Journal, he is also one of the best owners of agricultural land because it is cultivated with a variety of crops. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that about 30% (about 100,000 acres) of agricultural land in the US states is leased by people who work as landlords and do not participate in agriculture.
After these reports, Gates has faced criticism from some farmers and environmentalists, finding a contradiction between his public environmental advocacy and his personal investment strategy and encouraging non-farmer owners and low investment experience to buy land they cannot cultivate.
Critics argue that the entry of entrepreneurs into the purchase and lease of agricultural land will cost local farmers and also contribute to the push for “industrial agriculture,” from which large investors earn more than others, especially as wealthy Americans implicitly know that buying land is the most secure way to store and preserve their wealth, according to a VOX report.
However, Gates advocates considered that Gates’s massive investment in farmland might have a direct relationship to his other climate efforts. Newsweek, for instance, recently suggested his land ownership “may be connected to his investments in climate change agricultural developments,” sustainable agriculture, and that he was doing so to “save the planet” and also provide jobs for small farmers. While Bill Gates has previously tried to separate his Gates Foundation work on the climate from his private investments, he also emphasized support for sustainable agriculture and solutions to climate change.
McDonald’s potatoes from Gates Land
Data collected by The Land Report and NBC News show that Gates’ land holdings range from 70 acres (in northern Louisiana) growing soybeans, maize, cotton and rice, to another 20 thousand acres (in Nebraska) growing soybeans, and 14 acres (in Washington) growing potatoes, as well as island farms (in Nebraska).
Gates expressed in his book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster?” his worries about eating cheeseburgers due to the number of greenhouse gases produced during its manufacture, a tech billionaire farmer is a supplier to McDonald’s that buys its production for McDonald’s fries, according to The Guardian report.
But as Gates promoted this book, he was asked via Reddit about his purchases of agricultural land. He said that his investment group had chosen this area for action and that it was unrelated to climate or its vision to combat climate change, but acknowledged that more productive farming techniques could help reduce deforestation in other parts of the world, which in turn help preserve the environment.