Claims that Chinese entities were buying U.S. farmland at an alarming rate has led state and federal lawmakers from both ruling political parties to call for regulating and even stripping away foreign ownership of this land.
But a recent NBC News review of documents filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that in the past year and a half (since the start of 2022), Chinese entities had purchased only 1,400 acres — about 2.2 square miles — in 35 states in a country with 1.3 billion acres of agricultural land. (Also see states with the most diverse landscapes.)
There was similar fear-mongering last year surrounding multi-billionaire Bill Gates. A rumor spread quickly on social media that the Microsoft cofounder was buying up the majority of American farmland, a claim that was quickly debunked.
As the Associated Press and other news organizations pointed out: Gates is indeed a major investor in farmland, but in 2021 he owned 269,000 acres, or about 0.03% of the nation’s total. Today, Gates is estimated to own a little more of this land — 275,000 acres, according to The Land Report magazine’s 2022 Land Report 100 reviewed by 24/7 Wall St.
The estimates used to determine the 50 biggest landowners are based on information from published reports, online databases, tax records, and information provided by various landowners. They include only rural land holdings, and to make the list, ownership must be deeded, not leased. Some of these landowners also lease significant tracts of pastureland from the federal government. (This is how much land the government owns in every state and what it’s used for.)
While Gates is among the largest single private owners of U.S. land used for farming, grazing, timber harvesting, wildlife conservation, or other purposes, he is nowhere near the top of the list. He is far outside of the top 10 biggest private U.S. landowners, a list that includes billionaire telecom mogul John Malone, the family of late Subway sandwich chain co-founder Peter Buck, and CNN founder Ted Turner.
Correction: A previous version of this article said Chinese entities had purchased only 1,400 acres – a little larger than the size of a football field. It should have read that 1,400 acres is the size of about 1,059 football fields, or 2.2 square miles. This error has been corrected.
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