Saturday, January 16, 2021

America's Largest Land Owner? Liberty Media

Bill Gates can now claim a new title: America’s farmland king.

The NY Post reports the billionaire Microsoft co-founder has become the largest owner of farmland in the United States by quietly buying up massive plots across the country.  Gates’ portfolio comprises about 242,000 acres of farmland and nearly 27,000 acres of other land across 19 states, according to The Land Report, a magazine for land investors that tracks the nation’s biggest landowners.

The biggest chunks of Gates’ holdings are in Louisiana and Arkansas, where he owns 69,071 acres and 47,927 acres, respectively, the outlet’s research found.

He also reportedly owns about 16,000 acres in his home state of Washington, including a 14,500-acre tract in the Horse Heaven Hills region that was purchased for nearly $171 million.

Largest Landowners in U-S
The land is owned both directly and indirectly by Cascade Investment, the Seattle-area firm that Gates — the world’s third-richest man with a net worth of $132 billion, according to Bloomberg — set up to manage his massive fortune, according to The Land Report.

It’s uncertain why Gates has invested in so much farmland or how his tracts are currently being used. Cascade did not immediately respond to a phone message Friday, and the company declined to comment to The Land Report “other than to say that Cascade is very supportive of sustainable farming,” the outlet said.

Agriculture is also a key focus area for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the massive charity run by Gates and his wife. The foundation aims to “support country-led inclusive agricultural transformation across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” according to its website.

Liberty Media's property includes Bell Ranch in New Mexico

While Gates is America’s biggest farmland owner, he’s far from being the nation’s largest landowner in general. That crown belongs to Liberty Media chairman John Malone, who has 2.2 million acres, according to The Land Report.

As the nation’s largest landowner, Liberty owns land in several states.  For example, in Maine, Malone’s million-plus acre BBC LAND holdings use photosynthesis to absorb enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping greenhouse gas found in fossil fuel emissions. (Keep in mind that the US Forest Service estimates that our nation’s forests offset between 10 and 20 percent of the country’s annual carbon emissions.) Out West Malone owns Silver Spur Ranches and in New Mexico, Liberty owns Bell Ranch, which has sustainable grazing practices ensure the health and balance of native grasses and prairie while keeping carbon sequestered in undisturbed soils. Only horses’ hooves and cow tracks impact grasslands and soils, storing carbon, reducing erosion, and ensuring food security.

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