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North Dakotans are outraged as Bill Gates, the largest private farmland owner in the US, apparently buys a $13.5 million potato farm

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Bill Gates smiling.
Leon Neal/Getty Images
  • A $13.5 million purchase of a North Dakota potato farm is drawing outrage and legal scrutiny.

  • The buyer, Red River Trust, is tied to Bill Gates, the largest farmland owner in the US.

  • State law prohibits corporations, LLCs, and trusts from farming or ranching activities.

The billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, America's largest farmland owner, apparently bought a potato farm in North Dakota, and local residents aren't too happy about it.

"I've gotten a big earful on this from clear across the state, it's not even from that neighborhood," Doug Goehring, the state's agricultural commissioner, told a local NBC affiliate this week. "Those people are upset, but there are others that are just livid about this."

The $13.5 million sale in November of roughly 2,100 acres in the northeast corner of the state was first sleuthed and reported by AgWeek's Mikkel Pates earlier this month.

Pates wrote that while "nobody involved in the deal seems eager to talk about it," public records connected Gates and the buyer, Red River Trust.

Then, on Tuesday, the North Dakota attorney general's office sent a letter to the Red River Trust notifying a trustee, Peter Headley, of a Depression-era rule barring companies, LLCs, and trusts from farming and ranching activities in the state.

"Our office needs to confirm how your company uses this land and whether this use meets any of the statutory exceptions," the letter said.

Representatives for Gates did not immediately respond to messages from Insider requesting comment.

At about $6,000 per acre, the potato farm cost roughly half of what Gates reportedly spent on highly coveted soil closer to his home in Washington.

But that's just a portion of the vast holdings Gates and his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, own from sea to shining sea.

The Land Report found in 2021 that the Gateses had 242,000 acres of farmland, 1,234 acres of recreational land, and 25,750 acres of land in transition from farmland to residential and commercial use (think suburban development).

The North Dakota purchase would put those total holdings at more than 270,000 acres, though it's not clear how the property is being divided following Gates and French Gates' divorce last year.

Read the original article on Business Insider