The sale of a few thousand acres of prime farmland in North Dakota to a group linked to Bill Gates has sparked emotion over a Depression-era law designed to protect family farms and raised questions about whether the billionaire is upholding the values of the… state shares.
ates ranks as the largest private farmland owner in the country with approximately 269,000 acres in dozens of states, according to last year’s Land Report 100, an annual survey of the nation’s largest landowners. He owns less than 1 percent of the nation’s total farmland.
The state’s attorney general has asked the trust, which acquired the land in North Dakota, to explain how it intends to use it to comply with the rules of the state’s archaic anti-corporate farming law. It prohibits any corporation or limited liability company, with some exceptions, from owning or leasing farmland or ranch land.
“I don’t know it’s as volatile a situation as some have portrayed,” North Dakota Republican Attorney General Drew Wrigley told The Associated Press on Thursday. “It’s gone, it’s all over the planet, but I’m not sticking a finger in Bill Gates’ eye. That’s not it.”
Meanwhile, the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, Republican Doug Goehring, told a North Dakota television station that many people feel they are being exploited by the ultra-rich, who buy land but don’t necessarily share the state’s values. About 2,100 acres (849.84 hectares) of land were sold as part of the deal, AgWeek reported.
Goehring, who is currently on a government-sponsored trade mission in the UK, did not immediately respond to a list of questions emailed to him.
“I’ve gotten a big ear for it across the state, it’s not even from this neighborhood,” Goehring told KFYR-TV. “These people are upset, but there are others who are just angry about it.”
Charles V. Zehren, a spokesman for Gates’ investment firm, declined to comment to the AP Thursday.
Wrigley said the corporate farming investigation “takes for granted” when his office is notified of the sale of farmland, in this case the Red River Trust’s $13.5 million purchase of land in two counties of the wealthy potato growers Campbell Farms in northeastern North Dakota. Phone calls to Campbell Farms went unanswered.
“It’s meant to update everyone on what the ownership structure is and what their intentions are for the land,” Wrigley said. “If it is in accordance with state law, the matter will proceed. If not, they will be informed that they must part with the land.”
Corporations are exempt from the law if the property is “necessary for the residential or commercial development, site of any building, plant, facility, industrial park, or similar business or industrial purpose of the corporation or limited liability company, or for ancillary uses or ancillary to contiguous.” non-agricultural land in favor of both parcels of land,” the law reads.
It is not the first test for a law passed in 1932. A federal judge ruled the law constitutional in 2018 after a conservative farm group argued that it limited business opportunities for producers and disrupted interstate commerce by preventing outstate companies from participating in North Dakota’s agribusiness.
Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a former Microsoft executive whose campaign received $100,000 from Microsoft co-founder Gates when Burgum won its first win in 2016, declined to comment on the farmland sale. The Republican governor stayed centered when asked for his opinion on the anti-corporate farming law, which he and the Legislature expanded in 2019 to allow second cousins in the ownership mix.
“The governor strongly supports family farms and is open to discussions about reducing red tape that puts farmers in North Dakota at a disadvantage compared to neighboring states, and ensuring our ranchers and farmers can thrive and grow their operations to serve rural communities.” to help thrive,” said Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/farming-news/north-dakota-farmland-purchase-tied-to-gates-stirs-emotion-41785240.html Farmland purchase in North Dakota linked to Gates stirs emotions