Lincoln, Neb. —In the spring of 2020, the pesticide safety training season, like most everything else, was upended by COVID-19. Numerous in-person training sessions were canceled, and alternative training methods were devised. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture even offered a license extension to applicators who were unable to recertify their licenses by the April 15 deadline (applicators who received this extension must complete their training in 2021).
Now, with much uncertainty still surrounding the novel coronavirus, the 2021 training season has arrived.
One certainty is that some degree of flexibility will be needed from all involved. The Pesticide Safety Education Program’s (PSEP) primary goal is always to deliver quality training to Nebraska’s current and prospective applicators. Most agree that the best way to accomplish that is through conventional, in-person training sessions. For that reason, Nebraska Extension intends to host in-person training for both private and commercial/noncommercial applicators in 2021 while adhering to local and state health guidelines. This includes training for recertifying applicators and for people getting licensed as their initial, or first training.
Most, if not all, training sites are expected to operate at reduced capacity during the training season. This will allow meetings to continue under state and local health guidelines, but will also mean space for participants will be limited. Some counties may schedule more meetings to accommodate for reduced capacities. Online training for private applicators is also available.
Preregistration is required to attend any of the training sessions:
- Private applicators (both initial and recertifying) can preregister by calling their county extension office.
While optimistic about the ability to hold in-person training, those involved in the pesticide program recognize that 2021 will not be a normal year. That has led to a statewide effort to prepare alternative training methods in the event that in-person meetings must be canceled.
‘Do I need a pesticide applicator license?’
By law, certain pesticides are classified as “restricted-use pesticides” (RUP) due to the risk involved in handling them, while others are “general-use” (GUP) for the general public. To purchase and use RUPs, one must obtain an applicator license from their state. Pesticide applicator licenses are classified as either private, commercial, or noncommercial.
Private applicators apply RUPs for the purpose of producing agricultural commodities on their own property, or on property they rent. Private applicators are generally farmers and ranchers who do their own spraying.
Commercial applicators apply RUPs on a contractual or “for hire” basis. If working in structural pest control, lawn care, or community-wide vector control (e.g., mosquito control), a license is also required to apply GUPs as a commercial applicator. Commercial and noncommercial licenses encompass a wide variety of pest control categories.
Noncommercial applicators apply RUPs on land or property owned by their employer. Examples of noncommercial applicators include a Dept. of Transportation employee who sprays rights-of-way, or a golf course employee who sprays the greens. If controlling mosquitos on behalf of a government entity (e.g., a health department employee), a license is also required to apply GUPs as a noncommercial applicator.
‘How do I become a licensed pesticide applicator?’
If you need a private applicator license, you have three options to certify for a license:
- Attend a private training session;
- Complete the online private training program; or
- Pass a private applicator exam administered by NDA.
Once you have become certified, NDA will contact you about licensing; you will need to pay a $25 licensing fee to NDA.
To recertify a private license, which lasts three years, you can repeat one of the above options, or attend a Nebraska Extension Crop Production Clinic or the Nebraska Crop Management Conference. You must pay a $25 fee to renew the license.
If you need a commercial or noncommercial applicator license, you will need to pass at least two NDA-administered exams: one focused on the General Standards, or core competencies, and at least one focused on a specific applicator category. Exams are administered at initial training sessions and through the Pearson VUE computerized testing service.
You can prepare for your exams in two ways:
- Purchase study manuals and attend an initial training session; or
- Purchase comprehensive, digital study materials (i.e., FlipBooks
If you choose to use FlipBooks, you don’t need to attend a training session, too. However, you can register to take your exams during one of these sessions (no training included) for a nominal fee of $5. This registration page will be available by Jan. 1, 2021.
After successfully passing the applicator exams, NDA will contact commercial applicators regarding payment of a $90 licensing fee to NDA. There is no licensing fee for noncommercial applicators.
To recertify a commercial/noncommercial license, you must attend a recertification training session or an approved conference. Commercial applicators must pay a $90 fee to renew a license; noncommercial applicators do not pay a license renewal fee.
Attending a Nebraska Extension Crop Production Clinic or the Nebraska Crop Management Conference, all of which will be held online in 2021, allows recertification in the Agricultural Plant (01) category. The Nebraska Turf Conference offers recertification in the Ornamental and Turf (04) category. The Nebraska Aviation Trades Association Convention offers recertification in the Agricultural Plant (01) and Aerial Pest Control (12) categories.
‘What other pesticide-related training might I need?’
‘Chemigation’ is the practice of applying agrichemicals (including pesticides) to cropland using an irrigation system to distribute both the water and chemical. This practice requires training and certification. Initial and recertifying chemigators can train and test online.
This fall, the EPA (re)registered three dicamba products as RUPs through 2025. XtendiMax®, Engenia®, and Tavium® are registered for use only on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. In addition to requiring a pesticide applicator license, you must also take yearly dicamba-specific training before purchasing or applying any of these three herbicides. Dicamba-specific training will be provided by the products’ registrants for the 2021 growing season.
The highly toxic active ingredient paraquat dichloride (‘paraquat’) has caused a number of fatalities over the years due to negligence. All products containing paraquat are classified as RUPs. In addition, all paraquat products require paraquat-specific training before purchase and/or use. Paraquat training is good for three years. The national paraquat training is available online and can be completed at any time.
If you do agricultural work, including in greenhouses and nurseries, you should be aware of the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), a set of regulations intended to protect agricultural workers and pesticide handlers from pesticide exposure. Among other things, WPS requires workers and handlers to take yearly training. Because they have already taken more in-depth pesticide safety training, licensed pesticide applicators are exempt from taking WPS training. However, if you are the owner of an agricultural establishment, you have numerous responsibilities to your employees under WPS. For more information on those responsibilities, see the EPA manual, How to Comply With the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides.