According to Spotlight on Levy County Government, a Beijing-based company has purchased a vast parcel of farmland in Levy County, Florida, and converted it into a quarantine site for primates.
The Chinese firm, drug developer JOINN Laboratories, bought 1,400 acres of agricultural land from Levy-based L&T Cattle for $5.5 million. JOINN imports laboratory animals such as monkeys and apes. The company intends to use the location to quarantine them for a period of time before they are sold to U.S. buyers. It may also raise and breed the animals.
Non-human primates are often used to test new drugs for humans. The firm that brokered the sale to JOINN Laboratories said the animals are carefully vetted upon arriving in the U.S.
One problem was that the county’s development land code does not allow the area to be used as a quarantine site. Levy County Planning and Zoning Director Stacey Hectus says, “Therefore, by virtue of it not being permitted, it is prohibited.”
The area is categorized as forestry-rural residential, and a conservation easement protects a large portion of it. The brokerage company that handled the land purchase argued that “The non-humane primate quarantine farm shall be the exclusive business activity at this site that is not encumbered by the conservation easement. This is the primary intended use of the property.”
However, County Coordinator Wilbur Dean says the county has decided that JOINN’s quarantine facility is outlawed by the development code.
He states, “It does not fit the zoning as is, not with what they want to do.”
It is unclear what JOINN may plan to do, considering the unexpected real estate complication. On the other hand, the company’s purchase recalls that more Chinese firms have been acquiring U.S. farmland recently.
In June, lawmakers expressed national security concerns after Chinese food manufacturer Fufeng Group bought 300 acres of agricultural land in North Dakota. The Grand Forks Air Force Base, which houses some of the most sensitive military drone technology in the U.S., is only about 20 minutes away from the site.
He said, “I think the problem is these companies have ties to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], and it’s not always apparent on the face of whatever a company is doing.”