Bill Gates is the largest privately owned farmland owner in the United States with properties in 18 total states which include: Washington, California, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and North Carolina. -According to Eric O’Keefe’s The Land Report.
While it does sound pretty alarming that one person could own over a quarter of a million acres of farmland. Gates only holds is a fraction of the 911 million acres of farmland in the lower 48 states. Even though he is currently the country’s largest landowner, he only owns around .03% of all the farmland in the U.S.
Gates’ first acknowledged that his farmland purchases wasn't connected to climate change work, but an investment in emerging food and fuel technologies. Gates wrote, “The agriculture sector is important...with more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face. It is unclear how cheap biofuels can be but if they are cheap it can solve the aviation and truck emissions.”
John Piotti - CEO of The American Farmland Trust
No matter what size farm or who owns it, American Farmland Trust’s Piotti says keeping that land in responsible farming for the long term is critical to the nation’s future.
“We must maintain farming systems at all levels. Local, regional, national. All production regions will be challenged [by climate change], all forms, all sizes. There will be stress on the entire system,” Piotti says.
Here, Piotti raises the possibility that in his current position of power, Gates could play a major role in safeguarding that system. “It may be that the Gates’ landholdings are merely a way of diversifying their portfolio… [but] it may well be that given his commitments to sustainability in the food system, Bill Gates is amassing land to launch a large-scale regenerative agriculture initiative,” Piotti says. “In any case, I have no reason to believe that he and his representatives will not manage it responsibly.”
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