Bill Gates' Land Ownership

Bill Gates now owns almost 242,000 acres of the continguous USA. This map shows that area as a rectangle that can be dragged.

Lots of articles on this are full of "4D chess" speculations about climate change blah blah, but the real reason for this seems to be very simple: "just to collect rent."

Most of us imagine farmers tilling the soil that has been in their families for generations. But many farmers lease at least some of the land they cultivate. According to Bruce Sherrick, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about 60 percent of row-crop farmland in the Midwest is leased. The landowners can include investors like Gates.

"Farmland has had a remarkably consistent ability to hedge against inflation," Sherrick says. And it tends to be "negatively correlated" against other investments, he adds: If the stock market is going down, the return on farmland is likely to be going up.

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5 Responses:

  1. Hylyx Hyx says:

    Meanwhile, next time you visit the Salton Sea and see all that alfalfa growing with Colorado River water next to signs that say "is growing food wasting water" and "dams not trains" you can think of all the cows in other places too dry to grow feed for them.

  2. tfb says:

    I don't know about the US but farmers owning their land was not particularly common in the UK until (perhaps) quite recently. And this doesn't mean 'serfs toiling on the lord's land': agricultural tenancies in the 19th/early 20th century typically lasted for three generations and came with significant rights. Some of my mother's ancestors farmed on such tenancies for a couple of hundred years at least and they weren't anything like poor.

    I think this all fell apart in the UK because of death duties which caused the vast estates which owned the land to be split up. Of course now the equivalent vast estate would be owned by 'Lord Foo Holdings PLC' rather than Lord Foo, and companies don't suffer from death duties (and somehow Lord Foo does not actually own Lord Foo Holdings PLC I suppose), so they're probably coming back.

    Note I'm not defending that system: I'm just saying that it's quite traditional and so almost inevitably will return as we race backwards into the glorious past. In 300 years the twelfth Earl Gates will take his (yes) hereditary seat in the Senate I am quite sure, while his tenants work his millions of acres as they have done since time immemorial, occasionally turning up curious beige artifacts from the ancient days before the Emperors.

  3. Eeyore says:

    This certainly fits in with the whole "benevolent capitalism" thing Gates has going. I mean, if you are concerned that high farmer rents might cause other economic harm, the most straightforward way to control the rents is to own the land. Having the government own the land or regulate rents, why those would be "socialism".

  4. Whatever you do, please don't take the same path we did here in Argentina.

  5. plumpy says:

    Interesting (to me, anyway) side facts I learned when I went investigating this a little more:

    According to the Winter 2020 Land Report (the source for the Post article), he's #1 for farmland, but still only #49 in terms of total land owned. He's a full order of magnitude less than #1, which is meat farmer (er, rancher) John Malone with 2.2M acres. Malone passed former #1 Ted Turner (current #4 with 2M acres) in 2011.

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