Bill Gates shouldn’t have needed a loophole in the law to buy land in North Dakota


MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota’s ban on corporate farming is stupid.

It cannot be reconciled with our society’s foundational notions about property rights and free association. Willing buyers should be able to purchase land from willing sellers. People who want to farm or ranch on that land should be able to organize their businesses with more than just family.

I had thought, when news first broke that Attorney General Drew Wrigley was looking into a multi-million dollar land sale made by a trust controlled by tech industry billionaire Bill Gates, that we might see a legal challenge that would strike down North Dakota’s corporate farming ban once and for all.

Alas, it is not to be. Wrigley told me on Monday that he’d sent a letter to the Red River Trust to gather information about the transaction. The information provided by legal counsel for the trust indicates that the land sale is legal, under existing law, because the trust which will own the land is operated for the benefit of one person, Bill Gates, and the land itself will be leased to a partnership that will farm the land.

Here are the communications between Wrigley’s office and lawyers for the trust.

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