With agriculture ever-changing, and regulations becoming more and more stringent, being certified by a state or local certification program is becoming crucial to practicing as a professional agronomist in the U.S.
We are all aware California has led the charge in environmental restrictions that choke agriculture and have Europe-like restrictions that affect the whole country. An agronomist in California must be a pest control adviser (PCA) certified to make recommendations to growers unless he or she is an official of the Department of Agriculture, a University of California staff person or the operator of the property.
Whether a PCA is independent or works for a retail outlet, he or she must pass the laws, regulations and basic principles exam and must be licensed in each of the categories in which he or she will be making recommendations. After an agronomist has obtained PCA certification, he or she must register with the county agricultural commissioner in the county where he or she will practice, retain a copy of each certification, provide property operators with a copy of written recommendations prior to an application and provide pesticide dealers and applicators with a copy of written recommendations. A PCA must complete 40 hours of continuing education courses within a two-year period of each cycle. These courses must be approved by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
North Carolina has a similarly structured requirement with its own certification program. The regulations are not as stringent as those for a certified professional crop consultant (CPCC) or certified crop adviser (CCA), but you must be certified.
In contrast, in the United Kingdom (U.K.), for an agronomist to make a chemical recommendation, he or she must be registered and a member of the British Agrochemicals Safety Inspection Scheme (BASIS). BASIS is an independent organization that sets and audits the standards for recommending chemical and fertilizer recommendations. Within BASIS, agronomists must perform 50 points or hours of continuing education units per year just to keep their certificates valid. Additionally, for an agronomist to make any fertilizer recommendations to a grower, one must either be a member of BASIS or a Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS) Qualified Adviser. To become a FACTS Qualified Adviser, one must pass an initial exam, maintain 20 hours of annual training and complete an annual exam.
After an agronomist meets all the qualifications, he or she is ready to start making recommendations to a grower. However, before an agronomist makes a recommendation to a grower, the grower must be certified with the National Register of Sprayer Operators (NRoSO). The grower must maintain 12 hours of continuing professional development and pass a test annually. On top of these requirements, the grower or retailer must be tested for accuracy through the National Sprayer Testing Scheme (NSTS). An agronomist in the U.K. must be very well-trained to make any fertilizer or chemical recommendations.
If your state does not have these requirements or certifications, then NAICC has three categories within the CPCC program. It has the CPCC for industry professionals, an independent status for consultants and a researcher status for researchers. For more information, please visit NAICC.org.
Being certified has long been a model of professionalism. Having your certification shows your clients you have the education, training and expertise to give them the best advice possible. Strict regulations are not going away and will be the norm across the union. Be ahead of the game, and get certified.