Farmer Bill

According to the Tri-City Herald, a 14,500-acre swath of choice eastern Washington farmland in the Horse Heaven Hills of Benton County had just traded hands for almost $171 million. That’s a ginormous deal, one that pencils out to almost $12,000 per acre for a whole lot of acres. Pretty pricey dirt, right? That’s exactly what I thought. Especially when it comes to row crops like sweet corn and wheat, which were grown in rotation with potatoes on 100 Circles, which is the name of the property that changed hands.

Then again, farmers and investors in the Mid-Columbia River market expect to pay $10,000 to $15,000 for good ground. Anyone who has ever studied the Columbia River Basin knows that the tillable acreage there is coveted ground, a geologic wonder. The soil profile and underlying silty loess are in a league of their own.

Tens of thousands of acres? [In 2018] Only sovereign wealth funds and institutional investors can stroke a check for tracts in that league, which is exactly what occurred on the sell side of the 100 Circles transaction: The seller was John Hancock Life Insurance, a multibillion-dollar asset manager with key holdings in all the major U.S. markets as well as Canada and Australia.

The story went dark on the buy side, however.

Eric O’Keefe, the author of this piece, then launches into research and analysis in his attempt to scope out the purchaser. All interesting. All part of his experience in agriculture. And he found out nothing.

The smart thing to do is find another expert better than you are. He turned the question over to SUCCESSFUL FARMING’S Land Report 100 Research Team. Minutes later, a terse response arrived:

“Ever hear of Bill Gates?”