The Land Report is a magazine that tracks major land transactions and produces an annual list of the 100 biggest US landowners. The magazine took interest in a 2018 $171 million sale of 14,500 acres of farmland in Washington State to an LLC associated with Angelina Agriculture Co. of Monterey, LA. When the editors dug deeper they learned that the Louisiana company was acting on behalf of Cascade Investment LLC, the investment firm that manages most of the fortune belonging to Bill Gates.
The sale was notable because it added to Gates’ farmland holdings which includes large tracts of land in Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, California, and about a dozen other states. With the Washington state acreage and other additions to his portfolio, The Land Report estimates that Gates now owns at least 242,000 acres of American farmland.
There’s much speculation about why Bill Gates has invested so much in farmland. Speculation ranges from the simple idea that owning ag land is a natural part of his overall conservative investment strategy to theories that the ownership is connected to his well-known interest in climate change, hunger, and third-world poverty. Gates has previously shown an interest in the business of farming as evidenced by his investments in Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, two companies producing beef substitutes. In his book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” Gates writes that raising beef cattle causes more harmful emissions than other forms of agriculture. He hopes plant-based substitutes will allow us to “cut down on meat eating while still enjoying the taste of meat.”
In 2020 The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the formation of Gates Ag One which is designed to empower small farmers with the affordable, high-quality tools, technologies, and resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty. Perhaps the purchase of so much farmland is a simple reflection of the famously wealthy Gates’ interest in the environment and sustainability issues.