Bill and Melinda Gates have amassed a 242,000-acre portfolio of US farmland that stretches across more than a dozen states, according to data amassed by the The Land Report magazine.
Editor Eric O’Keefe told an audience at the People’s Company Land Investment Expo in Des Moines, Iowa on January 12 that the Gates’s landholdings make them the largest private farmland owners in the US.
The pair’s total landholding of 278,000 acres includes transitional and recreational land in addition to farmland. It took them to top of The Land Report’s annually compiled top farmland owners list for the first time since its inaugural edition in 2007.
“To have someone whose investing team looks that closely at farmland says a great deal for all of us as we look at this sector,” O’Keefe said in reference to the couple.
According to the figures, Bill and Melinda Gates’s land portfolio stretches across 19 states and is diversified across major agricultural regions of the US. Its largest concentration is in Louisiana, where their portfolio is estimated at 69,071 acres, and the smallest holding is presented as a single acre owned in New Mexico.
The report also details the acquisition of at least $520 million of farmland from the C$559 billion ($439.7 billion; €360.1 billion) Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in 2017 and the $171 million acquisition of a 14,500-acre property in Benton County, Washington in 2018.
It also explains that approximately 25,000 acres of transitional land included in the tally are located near Phoenix, Arizona. This holding is expected to be developed into a “brand new metropolis” of a similar size to the suburb of Tempe.
A spokesman for Cascade Investments, which is linked to Gates, declined to comment to The Land Report about specific land holdings, but did say that the firm is “very supportive of sustainable farming.”
O’Keefe highlighted the participation of Cottonwood Ag Management – an agricultural asset manager associated with Cascade – in the Leading Harvest sustainability framework announced by prominent farmland investors last year as an important note.
“They will continue to drive and support initiatives in sustainable agriculture,” he said. “Bill and Melinda Gates are going to change the way America farms.”