Oops. It's March and that pesticide applicator's certification you've been meaning to renew just expired. Options?

Just one, actually. To stay within the law, if you apply a restricted-use or state-limited-use pesticide, you must have a current pesticide applicator license in most states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee.

While there is no grace period on license and certificate renewals, and you can't just take the renewal test at any time, it's not too late to correct your oversight.

In past years, farmers were often able to simply drive to their local Extension office, watch a short video, and leave with a certificate in their wallet. All that has changed and to complicate matters further, the process to obtain the right to buy and use pesticides is different in each state.

In Mississippi, the training required to obtain a private applicator's certificate generally lasts less than two hours. Training sessions are conducted by Extension agents and include a one-hour video, a review of the program's regulations and guidelines, and a written test consisting of 20 multiple choice and true and false questions.

According to Elmo Collum, pesticide education assistant at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Raymond, Miss., private applicator certificates expire five years from the date of issue and commercial certificates expire after three years. Private applicator's certificates are provided to farmers at no charge.

“Any person producing an agricultural commodity in the state must have a private applicator's certificate before they can purchase or apply restricted-use pesticides,” he says.

For those Mississippi producers who do not have a current private applicator's license, there is still time to attend the required training session before the 2001 crop season kicks-off. County Extension offices with educational sessions scheduled for March 19 and 20 include Grenada County, Pike County and Sunflower County.

Farmers in Arkansas are required to obtain a private pesticide applicator's license each year in order to purchase restricted-use pesticides, according to Jeremy Bicker with the Arkansas State Plant Board.

Extension Service agents usually hold training sessions during the winter months for farmers, and others, who are in need of a pesticide applicator's license, Bicker says. Certification that a person has attended the educational session is required before a license may be issued.

Although Arkansas farmers are required only to attend pesticide certification training every five years, the state's private pesticide applicator's license is only good for the year it is issued. There is also a $10 charge for the one-year license.

Because the laws regarding pesticide applications vary from state to state, it is important that farmers educate themselves of the requirements in their states.

For example, in Mississippi, farmers who have been certified as applicators may supervise their employees handling restricted-use pesticides. “Anyone in Mississippi that is at least 18-years-old, and is a certified applicator, can also train workers under the Worker Protection Standard,” Collum says.

In comparison, a certificate holder may apply restricted-use or state-limited-use pesticides but may not directly supervise employees in applying those materials. Only those Texas farmers with pesticide applicator licenses may supervisor other employees or train them on worker protection standards.

Just as the regulations that apply to private applicators vary from state to state, so to do the regulations governing commercial applicators.

A commercial applicator is defined as anyone else who is being paid to purchase and apply a restricted-use pesticide.

For example, in Mississippi, a pesticide applicator's certification simply allows a person to buy and apply and/or supervise the use of a restricted-use pesticide. A commercial applicator's license is required to charge a fee for the application of a restricted-use pesticide.

In order to obtain a commercial license, an applicant must meet stricter education and experience guidelines. In most states this program is administered totally by the bureau of plant industry, which is often a division of the state department of agriculture.

Collum says adults in Mississippi who wish to obtain a commercial pesticide applicator's license are required to pass two written exams, one in general pesticide safety and one in the specialty category they wish to be certified.

Study material for the commercial applicator program can usually be obtained, for a fee, from the state department of agriculture office. “In Mississippi, testing for the commercial pesticide applicator's license is held at various locations throughout the state, four times per year,” Collum says. “There is a $20 pre-registration fee to re-certify as a commercial applicator.”

In some states, late fees may apply for private and commercial applicators who have allowed their licenses or certificates to expire. “If they let their licenses lapse for more than 45 days, commercial applicators must retake both exams in their entirety. Private applicators, however, get certified each time, so there is no penalty for a lapsed certificate,” Collum says.

In addition to making sure their applicator licenses are current, farmers and other private and commercial applicators should be aware of changing labels as they prepare for a new crop year.

A number of products have new labels with restrictions or exclusions different from last year. “Pay attention to the labels,” says Mendy Shugart, an inspector with the Texas Department of Agriculture who spoke at the recent Southwest Crops Production Conference and Expo in Lubbock, Texas.

She also noted that anyone applying a Section 18 pesticide must have in possession a copy of the Section 18 exemption. These are often available through state department of agriculture offices.

Collum also recommends producers make a concerted effort to have their employees trained under worker protection standards, and then to issue those employees blue verification cards once they have completed training. The blue verification cards, which are issued by county Extension agents in Mississippi, serve as proof of education under the Worker Protection Act.

For more information about the applicable laws in your state, call your local county Extension office.


e-mail: doreen_muzzi@Intertec.com