Cannot be complacent about certification of applicators
Recently, an employee of an aerial application company was penalized for applying an agricultural pesticide without following all label directions and without the required applicator certification. In a separate case, a forest service company, making an urban application, was also fined for pesticide label violations and lack of certification.
Certain pesticide products must be applied by or under the direct supervision of specially trained and certified applicators. The most recent statistics indicate that there are 414,000 commercial and 481,000 private applicators certified in the United States.
Certification and training programs are conducted by states, territories and tribes in accordance with national standards, notes the Weed Science Society of America. All certified applicators are trained in fundamental (core) principles of pesticide use—basic knowledge such as proper use of application equipment, potential application hazards, mixing instructions, protective clothing and equipment, applicable state and federal pesticide laws and regulations, interpretation of pesticide labels, effective integrated pest management techniques and more. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Research Foundation (NASDARF) will begin revising the current national core manual later this year.
As recognized by ag retail operations with application services and custom applicators, the testing and certification programs are different from state to state. In addition to passing the core exam, certified commercial applicators (and in some cases certified private applicators) must in most states pass one or more category certification exams. For example, aerial applicators might be required to pass one category exam in aerial methods and another in the specialty in which they will work, such as agricultural plants or aquatic areas.
The number of certification categories depends on the state. The diversity of categories shows that different expertise is needed for different kinds of pesticide use, such as agricultural plants, aerial, aquatic, food manufacturing and processing, forestry, fumigation, household, interior plantscaping, ornamentals, pet grooming, public health, rights-of-way, schools, seed treatment, sewer, turf, water sanitation and wood-destroying organisms.
Who needs to be certified to apply pesticides varies by state. The differences by states can be quite drastic in who and how applicators are certified. And the most complicated situations are those where an ag business operates across state lines.
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