Why Has Bill Gates Spent $113 Million on Nebraska Farmland?

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by Rhoda Wilson, Expose News:

In 2017, the Canadian board made the decision to sell a significant portion of its American farmland portfolio, which amounted to half a billion dollars and included all 22,830 acres of its land in Nebraska. The purchaser and financial details of these seemingly ordinary Nebraska farms remained undisclosed until recently, it has now been revealed that the individual behind this purchase is none other than Bill Gates and over the past six years, Gates has has invested more than $113 million in purchasing farmland in Nebraska.

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Gates’ ownership of farmland is structured through over 20 shell companies located across the country. Some of these entities trace back to a P.O. Box in Kirkland, Washington, where Cascade Asset Management, responsible for managing all of Gates’ investments, is headquartered. Bill Gates’ Nebraska neighbors don’t know he owns the soybean field down the road.

Here’s the story of his spending spree, including the massive loan he took out against his land by Destiny Herbers of Flatwater Press.

Spilling Bill’s beans: Tech billionaire spent $113 million on Nebraska farmland.

A glance at federal records shows the series of Nebraska farms listed as foreign owned, though there’s no country attached and no hint that these farms with unassuming names might be related. Willowdale Farms, Merrick County Farms, Dove Haven Ranch, Champion Valley Farm, Schroder Family Farms and many more are concentrated in northeast Nebraska but spread to the southeast corner and west nearly to Wyoming.

In Nebraska’s business records, they have one similarity: Each farm’s office address leads to a single-story brick building in the St. Louis suburbs, an office park housing a dentist, lawyers and, until recently, a farmland investment startup called AgCoA.

For years, AgCoA was owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, a government-owned group managing the retirement funds of 21 million Canadians.

But in 2017, the Canadian board decided to offload a half-billion dollar chunk of its American farmland portfolio – including all 22,830 acres of its Nebraska land.

The buyer of those unassuming-sounding Nebraska farms wasn’t publicly listed. Until now, the financial details of the transaction and the gargantuan loan he’s taken out against it have remained publicly unknown.

The buyer’s name: Bill Gates.

Tangled Web of Gates

The billionaire who co-founded Microsoft has, in the past six years, spent more than $113 million buying Nebraska farmland. The Flatwater Free Press analyzed five years of land sales data, between 2018 and 2022, originally gathered by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications data journalism class.

If that data would have included the year 2017 – when Mt. Edna Farms, the Gates-owned company that made that massive purchase from the Canadian pension board – then Gates would have been the top buyer of Nebraska ag land by money spent. Since 2017, he has spent more than double the second-place buyer.

Gates’ farmland is held by more than 20 shell companies spread across the country. Some lead back to a P.O. Box in Kirkland, Washington, the city where Cascade Asset Management, which manages all Gates’ investments, is headquartered.

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Others are linked to Lenexa, Kansas, and Monterey, Louisiana, population 371, where reporters have previously traced Gates’ operations.

These limited liability companies, buried under layers of business names, overlapping employees and addresses in at least three states, form a network more tangled and opaque than the one created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is buying a giant amount of Nebraska ranch land.

Because it’s hidden, Nebraskans living and farming in communities where Gates is among the largest landowners are often unaware that one of the world’s richest men owns the cornfield down the road.

Gates now owns around 20,000 acres of farmland across 19 counties in Nebraska after selling some land in recent years. He owns the largest chunk of land, about 8,500 acres, in Holt County.

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“I think if you ask on the street, who owns Mt. Edna Farms, nobody’d even know what it was,” said Bill Tielke, chair of the Holt County board. “So it’s not like people realize that he does own that much land in Holt County.”

Mt. Edna has a farm manager in Holt County, Tielke said, and local people work for the farm and rent the ground. Tielke has worked as a crop adjuster for local farmers who rented Mt. Edna’s land, and said that if they hadn’t told Tielke that Gates bought the land, he wouldn’t have known.

“I don’t remember it throwing up any bells or whistles or anybody even saying anything about it,” Tielke said.

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