North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley wants to know what Bill Gates' intentions are after the tech billionaire purchased six parcels of land in the state's Pembina County.
Public records cited by AgWeek show that 2,100 acres of potato farmland were purchased from the owners of Campbell Farms, a potato farming group that is headquartered in Grafton, North Dakota, about 50 miles from the Canadian border.
According to The Daily Caller, Wrigley sent a letter to Red River Trust — a group with ties to Gates — on Tuesday, demanding to know how it intends to use the land.
North Dakota law prohibits corporations or limited liability companies from owning or leasing farmland or ranchland and there are certain limitations with regard to trusts.
"I've gotten a big earful on this from clear across the state, it's not even from that neighborhood," Agricultural Commissioner Doug Goehring said, according to Valley News Live. "Those people are upset, but there are others that are just livid about this."
Gates' trust has 30 days from the receipt of the letter to respond and detail how it's using the land.
If Red River Trust is unable to show that it's using the land in accordance with state law, it will have one year to divest itself of the land and could face a fine of up to $100,000.
Gates has quietly positioned himself as the single largest private owner of farmland in the United States, having amassed almost 270,000 acres across the country, according to the The Associated Press.
According to The Western Journal, some of Gates' public remarks have raised questions about his motives for snapping up American farmland.
A proponent of plant-based meat substitutes, Gates has encouraged developed countries to give up meat in favor of synthetic, lab-made replacements.
"You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they're going to make it taste even better over time," the Microsoft founder claimed in an interview with the MIT Technology Review, according to The Western Journal.
As the single largest owner of American farmland, Gates is in a unique position to possibly cause adversity to ranchers and cattlemen.
He could deny ranchers access to his extensive property holdings — lands they've used to graze their cattle on for decades — which would greatly increase supply pressures and raise the price of beef at the supermarket.
At a time when sky-high inflation is already having an impact on Americans' purchasing power, the hoarding of farmland also stands to impact the entire U.S. food chain, making it more difficult for people to feed their families.
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