Alabama farmers and producers sometimes must use pesticides to protect their crops and fields. Many of these are restricted-use products, meaning farmers and others must have a private applicator permit to legally purchase and use them.

Sonja Thomas, Ph.D., a pesticide safety specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says the process is changing on how to obtain that permit.

“In the past, people needing a private applicator permit could get the study materials from the county Extension office, take the test at home and send the test to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries,” she says. “A passing test score of 70 earned the permit.”

The process is changing in January. Thomas says people will now have three options for learning the materials and taking the test.

Option 1 Full Training Course Cost: $20

Contact your county Extension office to register for the next training course available.

Participants will test at the end of the training course.

Statewide training/testing dates will be Jan. 1-Sept. 30 of each year.

During January through September, there will be at least one training per month in every region

No training courses will be offered Oct. 1-Dec. 31 of any year.

If applicant passes, he or she will forward permit fees ($25) to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries for issuance of permit.

Option 2 In-County Testing Cost: $10

If unable to attend a training session, applicants shall secure the appropriate training manual and permit application and study on their own.

Applicants will schedule a testing date with the nearest county Extension office.

Applicant will forward permit fees ($25) to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries for issuance of permit.

Option 3 Online Training Program Cost: $60 (includes permit fee)

The private applicator training course can be taken online. With a passing score of 70, applicants will receive a temporary permit for a one-time purchase until their official permit is received.

Fees must be paid online using a credit or debit card.

Thomas says there are currently about 5,000 individuals in the state who hold private applicator permits. While many are farmers, she says not all are.

“Nursery owners, pond owners and forest land owners are other examples of people who hold a private applicator permit or may need to get one,” she says.

She emphasizes that private applicator permits are different from those needed by pest control operators and other commercial applicators.

“The law says a private applicator uses or supervises the use of any restricted-use pesticide for producing any agricultural commodity on property owned or rented or on the property of another person if applied without compensation.”

Thomas says the key is that a private applicator permit is–just that–private.

“A private applicator cannot charge for their services and can only apply on land they own or rent.”

Thomas adds that are some other factors to remember about the private applicator permitting process.

Must be able to read and comprehend the subject matter in English. No tests are given orally.

Must obtain a passing grade of 70 percent or higher on the test.

Must successfully complete training and testing and then submit an application for a permit.

Individuals who already have a private applicator permit will need to retest when the license comes due.