Microsoft Corporation MSFT co-founder Bill Gates’ purchase of 2,100 acres of farmland in North Dakota is reportedly raising hackles among local residents and has led to the state’s top prosecutor intervening in the matter.
What Happened: North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley shot off a letter to the Gates-linked Red River Trust this week, reported KFYR, Bismarck, North Dakota-based T.V. station.
Wrigley asked the company how they intend to use the land and if they meet exceptions to the state’s corporate farming laws.
“All corporations or limited liability companies (LLC) are prohibited from owning or leasing farmland or ranchland and from engaging in farming or ranching,” the letter states, as per the report.
“In addition, the law places certain limitations on the ability of trusts to own farmland or ranchland.”
The company has 30 days to respond to the letter dated June 21. Public reaction to the Red River purchase has not been positive, reported KFYR.
“I’ve gotten a big earful on this from across the state,” said North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.
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Why It Matters: The Gates-linked company purchased nearly 2,100 acres of northern Red River Valley farmland from the owners of Campbell Farms, a potato farming group in North Dakota, reported AGWeek.
The transaction was reported to be worth nearly $13.5 million, with an approximate average price in Pembina and Walsh counties of $6,400 per acre. The land is mostly non-irrigated.
Gates is said to be the largest private owner of farmland in the United States with 242,000 acres in 19 states, according to an earlier report.
Gates said in a Reddit interaction last year the “agriculture sector is important.” He said his investment group purchased the land.
“With more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face. It is unclear how cheap biofuels can be but if they are cheap it can solve the aviation and truck emissions,” he had said.
Goehring said there’s nothing illegal about selling land to a billionaire, but people feel they are being exploited by the uber-wealthy who buy land in North Dakota but do not share the state’s values, reported KFYR.
Price Action: On Thursday, Microsoft shares closed 2.3% higher at $258.86 in the regular session and fell 0.25% in the after-hours trading, according to data from Benzinga Pro.