(a) The commissioner may develop a program to encourage the use of vacant public land owned by the state for gardening, agricultural purposes or agricultural restoration purposes. In order to carry out said program, the commissioner shall: (1) In cooperation with other state agencies, compile a list of all vacant public land owned by the state, that in the opinion of such agencies and the commissioner may be feasibly used for gardening, agriculture or, based upon soil type, is suitable for agricultural restoration purposes, and (2) establish a procedure for application to the department on a form to be furnished by the commissioner for a permit to use available vacant public land for gardening, agricultural purposes or agricultural restoration purposes. The commissioner shall adopt regulations pursuant to chapter 54 to carry out the provisions of this section, including but not limited to requirements for agreements to use vacant public land for gardening, agricultural purposes or agricultural restoration purposes, establishment of a fee for such permit, except that no fee shall be charged for gardening permits, and requirements for the use of such land for agricultural purposes based on competitive open bidding. Permits shall be for a period prescribed by the commissioner but shall not exceed ten years from the date of issuance. After such period permit holders may apply for a new permit or renewal of the permit. Applicants shall submit a plan for such use and shall agree to maintain the land in a condition consistent with such land use plan, and shall agree to abide by regulations adopted by the department pursuant to chapter 54. Failure to carry out the conditions of agreement shall result in the forfeiture of the garden, agriculture or agricultural restoration permit. Any applicant who is granted the use of vacant public land for gardening, agricultural purposes or agricultural restoration purposes shall indemnify and save harmless the state and all of its officers, agents and employees against suits and claims of liability of each name and nature arising out of, or in consequence of the use of vacant public land.
(b) Any permit issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section may be terminated by the commissioner, without cause, upon written notice to the permittee.
(c) A sponsor who has a gardening permit may assess a fee to individual gardeners for the sole purpose of reimbursing such sponsor for costs incurred in land preparation.
(d) Any payments by the permit holder pursuant to an agreement for the use of state land for agricultural purposes shall be credited in equal shares to the General Fund account of the agency whose land is being used for such purposes and to the Department of Agriculture for the purpose of administering the program.