North Dakota farmland sale tied to Bill Gates gets legal approval

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Red River Trust, an entity tied to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, secured legal approval to purchase thousands of acres of land in North Dakota. 

The trust purchased 2,100 acres of Campbell Farms' farmland, which spans two counties, for about $13.5 million – roughly $6,400 per acre – despite backlash from the community, according to multiple reports.

According to documents from the office of North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley, which were obtained by FOX Business, the sale was made Nov. 4, 2021. 

Several months later, on June 29, Wrigley notified Red River Trust that its "current ownership and lease of the land to Campbell Farms, a general partnership, is in compliance" with the law. 

PURCHASE OF PRIME NORTH DAKOTA FARMLAND TIED TO BILL GATES SPARKS OUTRAGE

Gates is considered the largest private owner of farmland in the country with some 269,000 acres across dozens of states, according to last year’s edition of the Land Report 100, an annual survey of the nation’s largest landowners. He owns less than 1% of the nation’s total farmland.

Bill Gates speaks during the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum Oct. 19, 2021, in London.  ( Leon Neal – WPA Pool/Getty Images) / Getty Images)

In a letter to Red River Trust, obtained by FOX Business, Wrigley notified the trust that laws in North Dakota prevent corporations or limited liability companies from owning farmland or ranchland, although there are certain exceptions.

The law also places "certain limitations" on the ability of trusts to own farmland or ranchland, Wrigley said in the letter.

"The Corporate or Limited Liability Company Farming Law has certain exceptions, such as permitting registered family farms or allowing the use of the land for business purposes," the letter continued.

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Wrigley said the corporate farming inquiry goes out "as a matter of course" when his office is notified of farmland sales, in this case, Red River Trust’s $13.5 million purchase of property in two counties. 

Bill Gates attends the World Leaders Summit’s “Accelerating Clean Technology Innovation and Deployment” session Nov. 2, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland (Jeff J Mitchell – Pool/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Before legally approving the sale, the state’s attorney general asked the trust that acquired the North Dakota land to explain how it plans to use it in order to meet rules outlined in the state’s archaic anti-corporate farming law.

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Residents in the area aren't pleased with the news. 

Tractor spraying pesticides on farmland and Bill Gates. (iStock/Getty Images)

The state's Agriculture Commissioner, Republican Doug Goehring, told a North Dakota TV station that some residents feel they are being exploited by the wealthy who buy land but do not necessarily share the state’s values. 

"I’ve gotten a big earful on this from clear across the state. It’s not even from that neighborhood. Those people are upset, but there are others that are just livid about this," Goehring told KFYR.  

Representatives for Campbell Farms, Bill Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did not respond to FOX Business' request for comment. 

The Associated Press and FOX Business' Ken Martin contributed to this report. 

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