The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has released answers to a few questions the public has been raising about the recent change in regulations that now requires harvesters of saw palmetto berries to get permits before offering Florida-grown berries for sale.
The new regulations took effect July 17.
They require, for a landowner harvesting palmetto berries for sale from his own property, that a Native Plant Harvesting Permit (no fee required) be obtained from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry. The permit application must be submitted 14 days prior to the intended date of harvest.
A contract harvester of palmetto berries on public or private land must possess written permission from the landowner or his legal representative prior to harvest, as well as a Native Plant Harvesting Permit from the department prior to harvest.
Any person transporting for sale, selling, or offering for sale saw palmetto berries, which were harvested from the person’s own property, must possess a Native Plant Harvesting Permit from the department.
If found by law enforcement officials to not meet these requirements above, the harvester or person transporting for sale, selling, or offering for sale saw palmetto berries may be charged with a misdemeanor. The illegally harvested berries will be confiscated and returned to the owner. If the owner cannot be located, the berries will be destroyed.
• Question: Do you need multiple permits for each property you’ll be harvesting on?
Answer: No, you can just list the multiple properties on one permit, attaching a separate sheet and listing the properties there, if necessary.
• Question: Do you need multiple harvesting permits for each person harvesting berries?
Answer: No, you can simply list the people on one permit in the space provided and make a copy for each person listed.
• Question: What if there are too many people to list in the space provided that will be harvesting?
Answer: Simply list whoever will be in charge, for instance the supervisors/crew leaders, so that they may vouch for those picking under them.
• Question: Do you need a permit if you are harvesting on your own land?
Answer: Yes, if you plan to transport and sell the berries.
• Question: Do you need letters of permission for each property?
Answer: Yes; however, if one person owns multiple properties, then they can just list those multiple properties on their one letter of permission for that individual.
• Question: Does a buyer, transporter or processor need a harvesting permit?
Answer: No. The only exception is if they are also the property owner of land where the berries are being harvested.
• Question: Are buyers, transporters or processors required to carry copies of the permits and permission letters from the people they purchase berries from?
Answer: The buyers, transporters and processors must have the written permission letters in their immediate possession at all times; however, the buyers, transporters and processors are not required to have a permit.
• Question: What if you get permission to harvest on another property after you have already sent in your permit?
Answer: Make a copy of your current permit and send it in along with the permission letter for the new property.
• Question: What is the cost of the permit?
Answer: There is no cost for this permit.
• Question: Can you harvest on state or public land?
Answer: You should contact the state, county or city authorities for permission to harvest from public lands. Currently, the Florida Forest Service is not giving permission to harvest from Florida Forest Service properties. However, if access is received, you must have written permission from the agency.
• Question: How do you identify the property that you will be harvesting from on the application?
Answer: You can either provide the Section, Township, Range (STR), Latitude /Longitude (Lat/Long) coordinates, parcel numbers, address for the property, or print out a map showing the outline of the property obtained from the property appraisers website. If using STR or Lat/Long coordinates, a description of the location for those coordinates should be included.
• Question: How long does it take to process the permit application?
Answer: Review of the application may take up to 14 days depending upon the information provided.
• Question: Can you start harvesting prior to obtaining a permit?
Answer: No, you must have the permit and written permissions on your person while harvesting.
• Question: Is there any documentation needed for berries entering/exiting Florida?
Answer: Shipments should be accompanied by a bill of lading or similar document. This would include name and address of the shipper or consignor, name and physical address of the receiver or consignee, a description of the plants or products in the shipment, the place and state of origin, and finally the ultimate destination if different from receiver or consignee.