North Dakota’s purchase of agricultural land linked to Gates stirred sentiment

The sale of two thousand acres of prime North Dakota farmland to a group affiliated with Bill Gates has stirred sentiment over a Depression-era law to protect family farms and raised questions about whether billionaires share the state’s values. We do.

According to last year’s edition of Land Report 100, an annual survey of the nation’s largest landowners, ates are considered the largest private owners of agricultural land in the country, with about 269,000 acres in dozens of states. He owns less than 1 percent of the total agricultural land in the country.

The state attorney general has asked the trust that it acquired North Dakota land to explain how it plans to use it to meet regulations set forth in the state’s antiquated anti-corporate agriculture law. . It prohibits all corporations or limited liability companies from owning or leasing a farm or ranch, with a few exceptions.

“I don’t know that this is quite a volatile situation as some have depicted,” North Dakota Republican Attorney General Drew Wrigley told the Associated Press on Thursday. “It’s off, it’s all over the planet, but it’s not me putting a finger in Bill Gates’ eye. It’s not the same.”

Meanwhile, Republican Doug Gohring, the state’s agriculture commissioner, told a North Dakota TV station that many people who feel they are being exploited buy land but don’t share the state’s values. According to a report by AgWeek, about 2100 acres (849.84 ha) of land were sold in the deal.

Gohring, who is currently on a state-sponsored trade mission to the United Kingdom, did not immediately respond to a list of questions emailed by the AP.

“I’ve gotten a lot of attention from across the state, it’s not even from that neighborhood,” Gohring told KFYR-TV. “Those people are upset, but there are others who are worried about it.”

Charles V. Zaren, a spokesman for Gates’ investment firm, declined to comment to the AP on Thursday.

Wrigley said corporate farming inquiries “definitely” happen when his office is notified of the sale of agricultural land, in this case from the Red River Trust’s wealthy Northeast North Dakota potato growers Campbell Farms in two counties. $13.5 million purchase of the property. The phone call to Campbell Farms went unanswered.

“What that means to set everyone up to speed on what the ownership system is and what their intentions are for the land,” Wrigley said. “If it complies with state law, the matter goes ahead. If not, they are informed that they will have to disinvest the land.”

Corporations are exempt from the law if the land is “required for residential or commercial development; the site of buildings, plants, facilities, industrial parks, or business or industrial purposes similar to a corporation or limited liability company; or for ancillary use of or both ancillary to adjacent non-agricultural land for the benefit of the land parcel,” reads the law.

This is not the first test for a law passed in 1932. In 2018 a federal judge struck down the constitutional law after a conservative agriculture group argued that it limits business options for growers and interferes with interstate commerce by barring out-of-state corporations. Getting involved in North Dakota’s agricultural industry.

North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, a former Microsoft executive whose campaign received $100,000 from Microsoft co-founder Gates when Burgum first won in 2016, declined to comment on the sale of the farm. The Republican governor interrupted when asked his opinion about the anti-corporate agriculture 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 discussion about cutting the red tape that puts North Dakota farmers at a disadvantage compared to neighboring states and ensuring that our farms and farmers can be successful and help rural communities thrive.” spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.