The founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates, happens to own a significant amount of the nation's farmland. Much of his wealth is invested in climate change research, and some of that includes land — as well as some potato farms, including farms that grow potatoes for McDonald's French fries.
Although the claims about Gates being the owner of the majority of U.S. farmland are false, he's still a major shareholder of land in the country. Here's a look at his stake in certain potato farms as well as other types of farmland.
Why does Bill Gates own potato farms?
Gates was involved in the $13.5 million purchase of 2,100 acres of potato farms in North Dakota in 2022, AgWeek reported. Red River Trust, an entity associated with Gates, bought the acreage located in the northern Red River Valley, from the three Campbell brothers.
Gates purchasing the potato farms in North Dakota sparked some anger among residents of the area, according to Insider. Doug Goehring, the state's agricultural commissioner, said, "I've gotten a big earful on this from clear across the state, it's not even from that neighborhood." He added, "These people are upset, but there are others that are just livid about this."
Per the Associated Press, Gates said in an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit that “The agriculture sector is important.” Though he wasn't referring to his potato farms at the time, he noted, “With more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face. It is unclear how cheap biofuels can be but if they are cheap it can solve the aviation and truck emissions.”
However, in the same Reddit segment, he said that his investments in American farmland were not climate-related.
How much farmland does Bill Gates own?
As the Associated Press noted in 2022, Gates owned a total of about 270,000 acres of farmland. This is actually a "relatively small slice" of the nation's farmland considering, that almost 900 million acres of farmland are found across the U.S. That placed Gates at an ownership level of about 1 percent of the total of U.S. farmland.
Gates has a significant stake in much of Americans' everyday lives, which may be why some are concerned to hear of how much he owns in potato farms and other farmland. An NBC News report in 2021 showed that the Gates family owned land in Louisiana and Nebraska where crops like soybeans, corn, cotton, and rice are grown. The potato fields in Nebraska are reportedly "so massive that they are visible from space."
Many people are upset about Gates buying up so much farmland because they believe his motives aren't pure. They worry he's trying to gain control of the food supply, or that individual farmers won't be able to afford farmland. Plus, as NBC News noted, Gates' firm Cascade Investments has bought farmland via at least 22 shell companies, making it harder to even determine how much land Gates actually owns.