Ray Williams bought this land just north of the small town of Dumont, in Butler County, Iowa.
For a glimpse of what could happen to a trillion dollars worth of American farmland, meet Ray Williams.
He’s a lawyer-turned-farmer, growing organic grain and feeding young cows on 3,000 acres in northeastern Oregon. Last year, he and his brother Tom decided that they were getting too old for the long hours and hard work.
“We told our clients, you don’t want to rely on senior citizens for your high quality organic products. Trust me on this!” says Williams, age 68.
Their farm sold for $23 million. The buyer was a company registered in Delaware with a mailing address in Manhattan. The people behind that company wish to remain anonymous.
This left Williams with a pile of money to invest, and he parked almost $3 million of it in farmland halfway across the country. He bought 293 acres in Butler County, Iowa, from a farmer named Rich Showalter, and another 160 acres in O’Brien County from the estate of a woman who was born in Iowa but died in Indiana at the age of 100.
The end result: Control over this land has passed to people with little personal connection to it, who live a thousand miles away. The new owners will decide what happens to that land, whether to plow or drain it, or even to stop farming it entirely. Their decisions will have profound effects on rural communities, wildlife and even the global climate.