(a) The commissioner shall manage all institutional farms, equipment, and other property in order to most efficiently produce food products for state institutions, support the department and its activities, advance the agricultural interests of the state, as identified by the commissioner, and otherwise implement the intent of the Legislature as set forth by this article. From the total amount of food, milk, and other commodities produced on institutional farms, the commissioner shall sell, at prevailing wholesale prices, and each of the institutions under the control of the Department of Health and Human Resources and Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation shall purchase, these products based on the dietary needs of each institution: Provided, That if the commissioner cannot sell sufficient food products to each institution to meet the demand created, each institution may purchase such food products from vendors who can supply those food products at the greatest savings to the taxpayers of the state.
(b) If requested by the Commissioner of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the commissioner may authorize the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation to operate a farm or other enterprise using inmates as labor on those lands. The Commissioner of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation is responsible for the selection, direction, and supervision of the inmates and shall, in consultation with the Commissioner of Agriculture, assign the work to be performed by inmates. The Commissioner of Agriculture may also request inmate labor to perform work on the institutional farms, and if requested, the Commissioner of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation shall provide inmate labor, if available.
(c) The commissioner is hereby authorized and empowered to:
(1) Lease to public or private parties, for purposes including agricultural production or experimentation, public necessity, or other purposes, any land, easements, equipment, or other property, except that property may not be leased for any use in any manner that would render the land toxic for agricultural use, nor may toxic or hazardous materials as identified by the Commissioner of Agriculture be used or stored upon such property unless all applicable state and federal permits necessary are obtained. Any lease for an annual consideration of $1,000 or more shall be by sealed bid auction and the commission shall give notice of such auction by publication thereof as a Class II-0 legal advertisement in compliance with the provisions of §59-3-1 et seq. of this code, and the publication area for such publication is the county in which the property to be leased is located;
(2) Transfer to the public land corporation land designated in its management plan as land to be disposed of, which land shall be sold, exchanged, or otherwise transferred pursuant to §5A-11-4 and §5A-11-5 of this code;
(3) Develop lands to which it has title for the public use including forestation, recreation, wildlife, stock grazing, agricultural production, rehabilitation and/or other conservation activities and may contract or lease for the proper development of timber, oil, gas, or mineral resources, including coal by underground mining or by surface mining where reclamation as required by specifications of the Department of Environmental Protection will increase the beneficial use of such property. Any such contract or lease shall be by sealed bid auction as provided for in subdivision (1) of this subsection; and
(4) Exercise all other powers and duties necessary to effectuate the purposes of this article.
(d) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (c) of this section, no timberland may be leased, sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of unless there is no commercially salable timber on the timberland, an inventory is provided, an appraisal of the timber is provided, and the sale, lease, exchange, or other disposition is accomplished by the sealed bid auction procedure provided above in subdivision (1) or (2), subsection (c) of this section as applicable.
(e) The commissioner may promulgate, pursuant to §29-1-1 et seq. of this code, rules and regulations relating to the powers and duties of the commissioner as enumerated in this section.