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One of the richest people in the world, Microsoft founder Bill Gates turned out to be the owner of agricultural land in the United States, the total area of which can rival the size of Hong Kong. In recent years, the billionaire has secretly bought hectares of farmland through a network of ‘covert front contractors’, eventually becoming the largest landowner in the country.
This is stated in a joint investigation by NBC News and The Land Report. According to publications, over the past ten years, Bill Gates has bought about 110,000 hectares of farmland in 18 US states. For example, in Louisiana, corn, cotton and rice are grown on almost 30,000 hectares, and soybeans are grown on 8,000 hectares in Nebraska. In Washington, Gates has approximately 5,000 hectares of agricultural land on which potatoes are grown for McDonald’s.
The Microsoft founder has been interested in American agriculture for a long time: he regularly invests in sustainable food production and the fight against climate change, including by reducing emissions from farms.
However, the purchase of such a large amount of land was not related to environmental activities. Bill Gates said that the decision to buy was made by his investment group, and the climate had nothing to do with it. However, he acknowledged that more productive farming practices could help stem the decline of deforestation in different parts of the world.
Acquiring so much land in the United States can indeed be a profitable investment. According to the local Ministry of Agriculture , the average value of farm real estate since 1993 has risen from $1,500 to $3,000 per acre in 2020. Even when the economy is in dire straits, the value of farmland is generally not depreciated.
As the country’s largest landowner, the billionaire has faced harsh criticism. For example, Holly Rippon Butler , director of the National Coalition of Emerging Farmers in New York , pointed out that Gates’s actions are preventing young farmers from entering the market and acquiring land. They simply cannot compete with the billionaire at purchase auctions and are forced to lease plots.
Journalists also found that Gates’ investment company Cascade Investment actively used a network of ‘shell contractors’ of at least 22 local firms to acquire space.
They have not officially announced their collaboration with Gates, but in reality, their legal addresses, lists of workers and sometimes even e-mails coincide with the details of Cascade and its subsidiaries.
Cascade Investment did not comment on the journalists’ investigation, but a representative of the fund said that his company ‘is very supportive of agriculture.’
All land owned by Bill Gates has been included in the sustainable development program, Cascade said. This means that operations at these sites are subject to a variety of environmental standards, from soil health, biodiversity and water management, to creating a safe and respectful work environment for employees.
However, some farmers, whose land borders on the Gates land, expressed disappointment with the billionaire’s activities, in their opinion; the Microsoft founder did not do much to preserve the environment. They pointed out that farmers in these areas are actively taking water from local sources and poisoning it with nitrogen fertilizers. ’Gates did nothing different from what his predecessors and other farmers did,’ his neighbours stated.
‘Did you know that the worldwide food shortage that threatens up to five hundred million children could be alleviated at the cost of only one day, only one day, of modern warfare.’ – Peter Ustinov. Source 1, Source 2.
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