(4) A person may not cultivate a nonnative plant, algae, or blue-green algae, including a genetically engineered plant, algae, or blue-green algae in plantings greater in size than 2 contiguous acres, except under a special permit issued by the department through the division, which is the sole agency responsible for issuing such special permits. A permit is not required to cultivate any plant or group of plants that, based on experience or research data, does not pose a threat of becoming an invasive species and is commonly grown in this state for the purpose of human food consumption, commercial feed, feedstuff, forage for livestock, nursery stock, or silviculture. The department is authorized to adopt additional exemptions to the permitting requirements of this section if the department determines, after consulting with the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, that based on experience or research data, the nonnative plant, algae, or blue-green algae does not pose a threat of becoming an invasive species or a pest of plants or native fauna under conditions in this state and subsequently exempts the plant or group of plants by rule.
(a)1. Each application for a special permit must be accompanied by a fee as described in subsection (2) and proof that the applicant has obtained, on a form approved by the department, a bond issued by a surety company admitted to do business in this state or a certificate of deposit, or other type of security adopted by rule of the department, which provides a financial assurance of cost recovery for the removal of a planting. The application must include, on a form provided by the department, the name of the applicant and the applicant’s address or the address of the applicant’s principal place of business; a statement completely identifying the nonnative plant to be cultivated; and a statement of the estimated cost of removing and destroying the plant that is the subject of the special permit and the basis for calculating or determining that estimate. If the applicant is a corporation, partnership, or other business entity, the applicant must also provide in the application the name and address of each officer, partner, or managing agent. The applicant shall notify the department within 10 business days of any change of address or change in the principal place of business. The department shall mail all notices to the applicant’s last known address.
2. As used in this subsection, the term “certificate of deposit” means a certificate of deposit at any recognized financial institution doing business in the United States. The department may not accept a certificate of deposit in connection with the issuance of a special permit unless the issuing institution is properly insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation.
(b) Upon obtaining a permit, the permitholder may annually cultivate and maintain the nonnative plants as authorized by the special permit. If the permitholder ceases to maintain or cultivate the plants authorized by the special permit, if the permit expires, or if the permitholder ceases to abide by the conditions of the special permit, the permitholder shall immediately remove and destroy the plants that are subject to the permit, if any remain. The permitholder shall notify the department of the removal and destruction of the plants within 10 days after such event.
(c) If the department:
1. Determines that the permitholder is no longer maintaining or cultivating the plants subject to the special permit and has not removed and destroyed the plants authorized by the special permit;
2. Determines that the continued maintenance or cultivation of the plants presents an imminent danger to public health, safety, or welfare;
3. Determines that the permitholder has exceeded the conditions of the authorized special permit; or
4. Receives a notice of cancellation of the surety bond,
the department may issue an immediate final order, which shall be immediately appealable or enjoinable as provided by chapter 120, directing the permitholder to immediately remove and destroy the plants authorized to be cultivated under the special permit. A copy of the immediate final order must be mailed to the permitholder and to the surety company or financial institution that has provided security for the special permit, if applicable.
(d) If, upon issuance by the department of an immediate final order to the permitholder, the permitholder fails to remove and destroy the plants subject to the special permit within 60 days after issuance of the order, or such shorter period as is designated in the order as public health, safety, or welfare requires, the department may enter the cultivated acreage and remove and destroy the plants that are the subject of the special permit. If the permitholder makes a written request to the department for an extension of time to remove and destroy the plants that demonstrates specific facts showing why the plants could not reasonably be removed and destroyed in the applicable timeframe, the department may extend the time for removing and destroying plants subject to a special permit. The reasonable costs and expenses incurred by the department for removing and destroying plants subject to a special permit shall be reimbursed to the department by the permitholder within 21 days after the date the permitholder and the surety company or financial institution are served a copy of the department’s invoice for the costs and expenses incurred by the department to remove and destroy the cultivated plants, along with a notice of administrative rights, unless the permitholder or the surety company or financial institution object to the reasonableness of the invoice. In the event of an objection, the permitholder or surety company or financial institution is entitled to an administrative proceeding as provided by chapter 120. Upon entry of a final order determining the reasonableness of the incurred costs and expenses, the permitholder has 15 days after service of the final order to reimburse the department. Failure of the permitholder to timely reimburse the department for the incurred costs and expenses entitles the department to reimbursement from the applicable bond or certificate of deposit.
(e) Each permitholder shall maintain for each separate growing location a bond or a certificate of deposit in an amount determined by the department, but not more than 150 percent of the estimated cost of removing and destroying the cultivated plants. The bond or certificate of deposit may not exceed $5,000 per acre, unless a higher amount is determined by the department to be necessary to protect the public health, safety, and welfare or unless an exemption is granted by the department based on conditions specified in the application which would preclude the department from incurring the cost of removing and destroying the cultivated plants and would prevent injury to the public health, safety, and welfare. The aggregate liability of the surety company or financial institution to all persons for all breaches of the conditions of the bond or certificate of deposit may not exceed the amount of the bond or certificate of deposit. The original bond or certificate of deposit required by this subsection shall be filed with the department. A surety company shall give the department 30 days’ written notice of cancellation, by certified mail, in order to cancel a bond. Cancellation of a bond does not relieve a surety company of liability for paying to the department all costs and expenses incurred or to be incurred for removing and destroying the permitted plants covered by an immediate final order authorized under paragraph (c). A bond or certificate of deposit must be provided or assigned in the exact name in which an applicant applies for a special permit. The penal sum of the bond or certificate of deposit to be furnished to the department by a permitholder in the amount specified in this paragraph must guarantee payment of the costs and expenses incurred or to be incurred by the department for removing and destroying the plants cultivated under the issued special permit. The bond or certificate of deposit assignment or agreement must be upon a form prescribed or approved by the department and must be conditioned to secure the faithful accounting for and payment of all costs and expenses incurred by the department for removing and destroying all plants cultivated under the special permit. The bond or certificate of deposit assignment or agreement must include terms binding the instrument to the Commissioner of Agriculture. Such certificate of deposit shall be presented with an assignment of the permitholder’s rights in the certificate in favor of the Commissioner of Agriculture on a form prescribed by the department and with a letter from the issuing institution acknowledging that the assignment has been properly recorded on the books of the issuing institution and will be honored by the issuing institution. Such assignment is irrevocable while a special permit is in effect and for an additional period of 6 months after termination of the special permit if operations to remove and destroy the permitted plants are not continuing and if the department’s invoice remains unpaid by the permitholder under the issued immediate final order. If operations to remove and destroy the plants are pending, the assignment remains in effect until all plants are removed and destroyed and the department’s invoice has been paid. The bond or certificate of deposit may be released by the assignee of the surety company or financial institution to the permitholder, or to the permitholder’s successors, assignee, or heirs, if operations to remove and destroy the permitted plants are not pending and no invoice remains unpaid at the conclusion of 6 months after the last effective date of the special permit. The department may not accept a certificate of deposit that contains any provision that would give to any person any prior rights or claim on the proceeds or principal of such certificate of deposit. The department shall determine by rule whether an annual bond or certificate of deposit will be required. The amount of such bond or certificate of deposit shall be increased, upon order of the department, at any time if the department finds such increase to be warranted by the cultivating operations of the permitholder. In the same manner, the amount of such bond or certificate of deposit may be adjusted downward or removed when a decrease in the cultivating operations of the permitholder occurs or when research or practical field knowledge and observations indicate a low risk of invasiveness by the nonnative species. Factors that may be considered for change include multiple years or cycles of successful large-scale contained cultivation; no observation of plant, algae, or blue-green algae escape from managed areas; or science-based evidence that established or approved adjusted cultivation practices provide a similar level of containment of the nonnative plant, algae, or blue-green algae. This paragraph applies to any bond or certificate of deposit, regardless of the anniversary date of its issuance, expiration, or renewal.
(f) In order to carry out the purposes of this subsection, the department or its agents may require from any permitholder verified statements of the cultivated acreage subject to the special permit and may review the permitholder’s business or cultivation records at her or his place of business during normal business hours in order to determine the acreage cultivated. The failure of a permitholder to furnish such statement, to make such records available, or to make and deliver a new or additional bond or certificate of deposit is cause for suspension of the special permit. If the department finds such failure to be willful, the special permit may be revoked.