Section 15A. No person shall engage in the business of an agricultural carrier by motor vehicle unless there is in effect with respect to such carrier an agricultural carrier's permit issued by the department. Each application for such a permit shall be in writing in such form and contain such information as the department may require and be verified by oath or written declaration that it is made under the penalties of perjury. Upon the filing of such an application the department shall hold a hearing, with or without the notice required by paragraph (b) of section three, and if it finds that the applicant is fit, willing and able to provide the services proposed and otherwise to conform to this chapter and the lawful requirements, orders, rules and regulations of the department thereunder, may issue an agricultural carrier's permit to the applicant, upon the filing of a schedule of rates and charges acceptable to the department; otherwise, such application shall be denied. The department shall specify in the permit the operations covered thereby at the time of issuance and from time to time thereafter shall attach to it such terms and conditions, not inconsistent with the status of the holder as an agricultural carrier, as the public interest may require. A suitable distinguishing plate shall be prescribed and furnished by the department annually for each of the vehicles necessary for the conduct of the business of the holder of the permit. Section nine shall apply to such plates except that the annual charge for each such plate shall be determined annually by the commissioner of administration under the provision of section three B of chapter seven.