Iowa: Pesticide Certification – Options Available for New Applicators

Pesticide sprayer being filled. Photo: Ohio State University

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) is working with the Governor’s office to address pesticide applicator issues that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A Proclamation issued April 2, 2020, by Governor Kim Reynolds temporarily suspends some regulatory provisions. IDALS is taking a step-by-step approach to provide regulatory relief.

The first step was to allow pesticide purchase and application options for applicators whose certifications expired on December 31, 2019. Details of these actions are outlined in a March 31, 2020, ICM News article.

The next step announced in an April 3 IDALS press release is to provide options that address the cancellation of in-person testing sites for commercial and private applicator certification due to public health concerns.

An online private pesticide applicator exam option is available to help address pesticide applications made to agriculture commodities. It only applies to Private applicators and Commercial AG (Categories 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, and 1E) applicators.

This new exam option, administered by IDALS, will temporarily allow individuals to take the private applicator test online for the duration of the State Public Health Emergency. A Private Applicator Study Manual is available from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach online store to help prepare for the exam.

The new relief measure allows a certified private pesticide applicator to be employed as a commercial applicator and apply pesticides commercially to agriculture commodities if operating under the instructions and control of a certified commercial applicator.

The supervising applicator is not required to be physically present. Once the Proclamation expires, commercial applicators must complete the commercial applicator testing requirements. This option does not apply to aerial applicators.

Listed below are answers to some questions received by IDALS. Send additional questions to pesticides@iowaagriculture.gov.

Pesticide Applicator Certification Q&A:

Once an applicator has his/her private applicator certification, can they apply dicamba and paraquat? 

All applicators must follow pesticide label directions. We are in constant communication with EPA regarding pesticide label statements for these products, and have requested clarification from EPA on the requirements of the federal label as they pertain to distinction of ‘use’ by private vs. commercial applicators.

However, there has been no change to label requirements granted thus far.

Do they receive their applicator license number at that point? I have heard applicators need to input that number when they apply chemicals like dicamba.

Applicators will be able to get their certified applicator number and pesticide company license number through the online pesticide portal. These recent challenges have slowed the processing of paper submissions.

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Processing of paper submissions for private pesticide certifications are very close to being caught up and available through the online pesticide portal. There continues to be a delay in processing paper submissions for commercial applicator certifications and the team is working to complete them as soon as possible.

If they don’t receive their applicator number online (after they’ve paid for a license), is there a way they can continue to utilize those chemicals, while waiting? 

No, the applicator must follow all product label requirements. Dicamba and paraquat labels require a completed certification and applicator number.

After the proclamation expires, will there be any kind of grace period for the new commercial applicators that haven’t yet been able to take their in-person tests?

The regulatory relief only applies through the duration of the proclamation and any extensions. We recognize this as a potential issue and are in constant communication with the Governor’s office. We will work with her team to look for solutions to help ease the transition.

Can a person who already has a private applicators license go to work as a commercial applicator for an ag retailer only during this declaration period? 

Yes, the provisions of the general supervision requirements apply to all private certified applicators. This includes all current private certified applicators, new private certified applicators, and private certified applicators who were certified as of 12/31/19. This regulatory relief only applies through the duration of this proclamation and any further extensions.

Is there any additional regulatory relief for aerial applicators since the commercial applicator waiver doesn’t apply to them?

Not at this time. Aerial applicators requirements go beyond the agricultural pesticide applicator categories (1A, 1B, 1C, 1D) and are outlined in a separate category (11), which means the standards of competency for aerial applicators are different than those of agricultural categories.

We are working through regulatory relief to address pesticide applicator issues in a step-by-step process. The first step was to provide immediate options for those applicators who were certified as of 12/31/19. Our next step was to address the in-person testing requirements for commercial and private applicator certification.

We are working with EPA and the Governor’s office to address this issue and other pesticide-related issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic next.




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