Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) sent a letter to House Agriculture Committee chairman David Scott (D-Ga.), requesting that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates testify before the committee regarding the billionaire’s large farmland purchases.
Gates is the “largest private farmland owner” in the United States, possessing almost 270,000 acres of farmland in 19 states, the July 20 letter states. The average farm size in 2021 was only 445 acres, Johnson said citing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Gates’s farmland holdings in the United States are a “significant” portion that the committee “should not ignore,” while asking that the billionaire be brought in to testify about his “farming interests and practices.”
“The Committee should be interested in Mr. Gates’ ownership and plans for his acreage, as he has been a leading voice in the push for ‘synthetic meat.’ In 2021, Mr. Gates was quoted to say ‘all rich countries should move to 100 percent synthetic beef’ to combat climate change,” the letter said.
In a July 23 tweet, Johnson called Gates an “outspoken opponent” of traditional agriculture. The world’s food supply could be at risk if Gates decided to put this much land “out of production,” he warned.
Gates’s 270,000 acres of farmland holdings is almost equivalent to the size of Hong Kong, but it only represents a small part of an estimated 911 million acres of farmland in the United States.
Acres of Farmland
Johnson’s letter comes as Gates’s organization, Red River Trust, was recently approved to buy 2,100 acres of prime farmland in North Dakota. The state’s attorney general, Drew Wrigley, cleared the sale on June 29. The deal was approved because it complied with an anti-corporate farming law, with the land intended to be leased back for use by farmers.
In an interview with NTD, land consultant Gary Hubbell said that there is a “lot of resentment and resistance” among communities about Gates’s acquisition of large areas of farmland because his goals tend to be “contrary” to many of the established traditions and practices of those communities.
During a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session in March 2021, Gates was asked why he was buying up farmland, and he answered that it was his “investment group” that chose to do this. “It is not connected to climate.”
Gates’s private farmlands are estimated to be worth around $690 million. His largest holding is in the state of Louisiana, where he owns 69,073 acres of land, followed by 47,927 acres in Arkansas, 25,750 acres in Arizona, 20,588 acres in Nebraska, 17,940 acres in Illinois, 16,963 acres in Mississippi, 16,097 acres in Washington, and 14,828 acres in Florida.