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How much land should one person, one corporation, one foreign power, or one domestic government be able to own?
Those are questions that Americans trying to escape horribly run cities, only to find themselves priced out of options in suburbs and rural areas, should be asking.
This past week Bill Gates made news (again) for attempting to snap up farmland, this time in North Dakota. Gates currently owns more than 268 thousand acres of farmland in at least 18 states.
But the billionaire megalomaniac isn’t even close to being the largest owner of farmland in the U.S., though he is the biggest private owner.
The largest corporate owner of farmland is John Malone, who owns some 2.2 million acres of forests, farmland and ranches. Malone, former CEO of TCI, sold the company to AT&T in 1999 for $50 billion.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos actually owns more land than Gates, with a reported 420-plus thousand acres in his portfolio.
Ted Turner is currently third on a 2021 list of rich American landowners. He holds some 300 thousand acres. Stan Kroenke, a real estate mogul and husband to Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke, owns 1.4 million acres, good for 5th on the list. Peter Buck, a founding partner of the Subway franchise, was 7th on the list, with about 1.24 million acres held.
There are also plenty of names that aren’t as publicly familiar, that own vast chunks of acreage: the Emmerson Family, with lands equal to a third of the size of Vermont, the Reed Family, owners of Green Diamond Resource Company, with logging lands in Oregon, California and elsewhere, and the Irving Family, with large holdings in Maine.
A pre-pandemic Washington Post article noted at the time that America’s wealthiest 100 families owned 40.2 million acres. They doubled their land holdings in just 10 years, from 2007, to 2017.
Of course, the largest owner of land in the U.S. is the government. Federal, state and local governments own about 37 percent of available land.
Every year, the percentage rises, as new set asides and “preserves” are created, in the interest of environmental and strategic concerns.
And the latest wealthy U.S. landowner? That would be a foreign country by the name of China (“CHINA SWALLOWING UP U.S. FARMLAND”).
China joined the WTO in 2001. It was supposed to be a win-win in a globalized economic scheme devised by elites. But China has played by its own rules, as the Trends Journal detailed in articles such as “CHINA CHALLENGING U.S. HI-TECH DOMINANCE” (13 Jul 2021), “CHINA BUSINESS ESPIONAGE NETS $500 BILLION A YEAR” (19 Jun 2021) and “CHINA ‘TALENT PROGRAM’ GIFTED AT STEALING AMERICAN IP” (26 Oct 2021).
Not coincidentally, foreign interests led by China have doubled their holdings of American land since 2000. At this juncture, foreign investors own more than 30 million acres of U.S. farmland, according to NPR, and it has at least some people worried.
Playland For Climate Change and “Super Crop” Profits
Bill Gates made the news cycle after North Dakotans made noise about Gates potentially violating state laws with a major farmland buy there.
The State Attorney General responded with a 21 June letter to the trust representing Gates in the purchase. The letter informed the trust that all corporations or limited liability companies are “prohibited from owning or leasing farmland or ranchland in the state of North Dakota,” as well as “engaging in farming or ranching.”
The story demonstrated that Americans are becoming more aware of the elite land grab.
Why does Gates want all those acres? He obviously sees high tech agriculture, fueled by new technologies like gene editing and synthetic biology, as a hugely profitable bet. (See “WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, GENE EDITORS BLAME WAR,” “SYNBIO AND BIO PHARMA: YES, THERE’S HUGE UPSIDE” and “GENETIC MODIFICATIONS BEING PREPPED TO “SOLVE” EVERYTHING.”)
A Gates friendly article at landincome.com assured readers that the world’s 4th richest man and America’s largest private owner of farmland had only the best of intentions.
Gates has shown sustained interest in agricultural innovations, and has been advancing ag related projects in Africa and elsewhere since 2008. In 2021, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation introduced Gates Ag One, a non-profit initiative to assist farmers in underdeveloped nations acquire Agri-Tech, upgrade agricultural equipment, learn how to increase production, and more effectively adjust to environmental changes.
Of course, Gate’s philanthropic initiatives often manage to not only burnish his image, but fatten his wallet in one way or another, as the Trends Journal pointed out in “BILL GATES, PHILANTHRO-PREDATOR” (21 Sep 2021).
The landincome.com article noted that plant-based protein production is projected to be worth $23.4 billion by 2027.
Biofuels also stand to benefit even more from government subsidies then they currently do, as “climate change” dominates energy policy and distorts economics. And Gates has had a huge hand in manipulating those distortions (see “ENERGY INFLATION AND GREEN ENERGY TYCOONS,” 17 May 2022).
Other tech investors like Jeff Bezos are grabbing up land just like Gates, as they promote public policies designed to make their acquisitions that much more profitable.
So How Much Land Do Average Americans Own?
Meanwhile, most Americans make do with a paltry portion of land. Eric O’Keefe, editor of Land Report, which compiles ownership statistics, put it this way:
“Eighty percent of us live on 3 percent of the United States. Large swaths of privately owned land are beyond comprehension because they are simply beyond the horizon.”
“Beyond the horizon,” meaning that most Americans don’t derive their livings from real estate, and therefore tend not to be concerned with who owns all of that land.
Edward Wolff, an NYU economist, has calculated that the wealthiest 1 percent of households own 40 percent of the nation's non-home real estate, and the wealthiest 10 percent own over 80 percent of non-home available land.
The ravages of the COVID War only accelerated the divide between elite haves and locked down have-nots in America. But one thing those lockdowns achieved was making many Americans realize how little space they owned, in the grand scheme of things.
Those who can, have been rushing out of the cities as fast as they can since 2020, buying places with a bit more land in rural outlying locales. If potential lockdowns at the whim of elites is the new normal, the common herd has at least decided they want their pens to be a little larger.
Land, the Scarcest Resource
Gold is a shiny, malleable, dividable and rare metal. Bitcoin is a digit with a hard cap in total number, kept track of in a distributed ledger, with ownership of tokens under a nifty cryptographic lock and key.
Both have found value with people. But elites know that land is the most valuable resource that exists on earth. Land is where food grows, where humans and animals habitate, where resources are mined and grown, where rainwater falls, where plants make oxygen, and where life happens.
Land is scarce. Until humans move to other planets, which isn’t happening any time soon, despite the dreams of Musk and Bezos, planet earth is all there is. And arable, productive land is even scarcer.
A new wave of uber rich seem to have caught on to the relationship between land and emerging technologies. The Industrial Revolution was famously noted for shifting wealth and power away from a landed aristocracy. But landed elites never really stopped profiting from land ownership, of course. They just took a backseat to the nouveau riche.
Especially since 2000, tech and mega finance billionaire fortunes have been finding their way into land investments at a distinctly accelerated pace, creating a kind of convergence of land and industrial wealth that is squeezing average humanity like never before.
Whether its huge equity firms buying everything from luxury parcels to mobile homes (see “SOARING HOUSING COST REACHES MOBILE HOME PARKS,” 21 Jun 2022), billionaires riling sleepy rural backwaters with gaudy purchases, or foreign nations looking to make American farmland an indentured servant of their own growing, affluent middle classes (see China), Americans are waking up to the swindle.
Any Advocacy For Average People Worth the Name?
The advocacy group Farm Action Network (farmaction.us) is putting forward at least some positions that would blunt the wholesale destruction of family farms and local connections that many consider vital to maintaining healthier oversight and healthier food.
Several proposals are aimed at constraining the power of “Big Ag” corporations, including:
- A “Prohibiting Anti-Competitive Mergers Act”
- A “Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium”
They list breaking up corporate AG as a major goal:
“A food system controlled by corporate behemoths poses a food security and a national security threat. By breaking up agrifood corporations and investing in local and regional food systems, we can enhance market transparency and competition. It’s time to empower people, not corporations, and create a resilient food and agriculture system that will feed us even if calamity strikes. If we build local, we can eat local!”
Unfortunately, the group seems even more concerned with a woke social equity and “climate change” agenda, which is virtually indistinguishable from the globalist playbook.
For example, the Farm Action Network advocates using government regulations, disincentives and subsidies to promote less meat production and more use of grains to feed humans, not livestock.
The group’s pronounced anti meat production goal is a road to eating bugs that dovetails nicely with mega elites at the World Economic Forum and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Other legislation proposes reparations for Blacks in the form of a “Justice for Blacks Farm Act,” which proposes 160 acres be given to blacks at “no cost.”
Other programs offer special advantages for women, and for farmers who take climate action.
Focusing on woke politics is an effective way of keeping different factions fighting over scraps, while elites jet around the world, eat organic grass fed steak on keto diets, and continue to buy up the world and control the focus of debate.
Farm Action Network advocates virtually no action, and doesn’t even mention the mega billionaires behind the 21st century land grab.
Also, at least judging from the topics currently prominent on its website, the group seems little concerned with the troubling gene editing and gene modifying trends being formulated and decided right now by technocratic elites.
Other groups like Land Report, which is oft-quoted in stories concerning mega billionaire investments in farmland, don’t advocate for limits on land ownership for the rich. The outlet mostly just reports on the latest acquisitions.
The outlet did feature an extensive 2021 story on Bill Gates that revealed just how far back the tech titan began to “diversify”:
“Actually, when it comes to the extensive farmland portfolio of Bill and Melinda Gates, the question should be, ‘Ever hear of Michael Larson?’ For the last 25 years, the Claremont McKenna College alum has managed the Gateses’ personal portfolio as well as the considerable holdings of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Although our researchers identified dozens of different entities that own the Gates' assets, Larson himself operates primarily through an entity called Cascade Investment LLC.)
In 1994, the Gateses hired the former Putnam Investments bond-fund manager to diversify the couple’s portfolio away from the Microsoft co-founder’s 45 percent stake in the technology giant while maintaining comparable or better returns. According to a 2014 profile of Larson in the Wall Street Journal, these investments include a substantial stake in AutoNation, hospitality interests such as the Charles Hotel in Cambridge and the Four Seasons in San Francisco, and “at least 100,000 acres of farmland in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and other states … .”
Clueless Progressives, Deluded Conservatives
Remarkably, no political faction is proposing any real land reform that would expand property held by the bottom 50 percent, or even bottom 90 percent of Americans, who are sitting on 3 percent of American land.
A California based Longview News-Journal article noted that California is doing next to nothing to solve its status as the lowest home ownership state in the nation.
The article pointed out that liberal bastions are literally the worst places for the “unlanded” to try to get their piece of the American dream:
“Just 56% of California’s families live in homes they own, very slightly higher than New York’s lowest-in-the-nation 55% rate and nearly 10 percentage points behind the 65% national rate, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
“‘Homeownership has long been a central feature of the American dream,’ PPIC’s research team writes. ‘It is the leading source of wealth for most families, and over the long run provides families with more stable and lower housing costs compared to renting. Yet—primarily because of the state’s high housing prices—homeownership is out of the reach of many Californians.’”
Despite wealth stratification in California being abysmal, politicians like Governor Newsome propagandize via buzzwords like “equity,” egalitarianism and inclusion, the paper observed.
It pointed out that politicians are often quick to peddle a new program offering relative peanut incentives, while doing nothing to change the fundamental, enormous divides:
“It’s typical of politicians’ approaches to social and economic disparity—create a new program with a catchy title that has little impact, if any, and sidesteps core issues.
“California’s low rate of homeownership results from high levels of poverty and sky-high home prices. Throwing a few dollars at it doesn’t solve the problem and could even make it worse by enticing some families to buy homes they really cannot afford.”
Instead of addressing the elephant in the room, which is the vast difference in the land holdings of the elite few versus the paltry 3 percent held by the other 90 percent of Americans, even “progressive” advocacy has marginalized itself with modest movements like tiny homes and clustered housing.
A good example of recent trends is a dwell.com article that extolls the loosening of local zoning laws to allow the building of extra housing units on existing small single home lots.
In other words, the big idea is to provide, in places like Oregon, Maine, North Carolina and Colorado, new flexibility for small landowners to crowd more of themselves onto their meager plots, while billionaires, corporate investment groups, and foreign powers feast on the rest.
It’s clear that land ownership is taking a huge step backward in America, and that’s not the kind of progress from past eras that anyone should find comforting.
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