by LUIS RODRIGUEZ-ROSADO
Florida is a state where environmental protection is taken very seriously. Pesticides used for commercial or agricultural purposes are highly regulated by the government to ensure proper applications to avoid non-source pollution. Because of this, growers and ranchers need to obtain their pesticide license in order to use a Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP).
What is a Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP)?
Pesticides that fall under the category RUP mean that in order to use the chemical (mix, apply, transport, and purchase), it is necessary to have a pesticide license. Products categorized as restricted will have a notification on their label indicating it, and a pesticide license will be required for their use. These products are categorized as restricted because of the potential harm they can cause to the environment even when using them according to label instructions. It is against the law to use any pesticide without following label instructions.
What Agency Regulates Pesticide Application in Florida?
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is the state agency that regulates pesticide applications throughout the state of Florida. It is through this department that applicators will apply for their pesticide license after completing the relevant requirements for their corresponding license. For more information about pesticide licensing visit the website of FDACS Pesticide Applicator Certification and Licensing or the UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office.
What Category of Pesticide License Will Growers and Ranchers Need?
Depending on the type of work, location, and employer a different license will be required.
- Private Applicator – People who work on their property (may be rented land) or work exclusively on their employer’s property and apply pesticides to agricultural commodities are considered Private Applicators. Most growers and ranchers have a Private Applicator License. This type of applicator can only spray inside their land, and no commercial applications are allowed. It is important to note that most fumigant pesticide labels require that the certificated applicator-in-charge of a soil fumigant application complete an appropriate soil fumigant training program listed on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.
- Public or Commercial Applicators – A public applicator is a person who works in a government agency, whether state or federal, that needs to spray pesticides as part of their job. This type of applicator is subject to spraying pesticides exclusively for job-related tasks and cannot do any type of commercial application. A commercial applicator is a person who sprays pesticides under contract (the person gets paid for their services). Some of the licenses that both public and commercial applicators can obtain to spray in agricultural commodities or areas are:
- Agricultural Row Crop – Applications for the control of pests in crops (trees are not included); include row crops, grains, forages, vegetables, small fruits on plants other than trees, and pastures (excluding sod grass). Use of restricted fumigants requires a soil and greenhouse fumigation license.
- Agricultural Tree Crop – Applications of pesticides to tree crops; including citrus, blueberries, walnuts, or woody shrub/tree crops. The use of restricted fumigants requires a soil and greenhouse fumigation license.
- Agricultural Animal – Applications directly to animals or in places where animals are kept or confined (includes pigs, cattle, sheep, horses, fish, poultry, bees, and other agricultural animals).
- Soil and Greenhouse Fumigation – Applications of fumigants to soils in the field in container plants, potting soil, turf, and ornamental plants not associated with structures; or within closed agricultural structures such as greenhouses where some agricultural activity is present.
- Ornamental and Turfgrass – Applications for the control of pests in ornamental plants in nurseries or the maintenance of trees, shrubs, flowers, or lawns. This license also includes applications on grass growing in or on cemeteries, golf courses, parks, or sports fields. Grass or ornamental plants around structures are not included. The use of restricted fumigants requires a soil and greenhouse fumigation license.
Where to Find Training
The UF/IFAS Extension Service Agents are responsible for providing science-based education on pesticides and their interaction with the environment for each particular category in Florida. The “UF/IFAS Bookstore” contains a catalog of study guides pertinent to each category of license in Florida. Applicators can access this catalog here: http://ifasbooks.ifas.ufl.edu/
The exams required to obtain pesticide licenses are also offered in the different Extension offices of each county or online. In addition, agents offer workshops to help applicants obtain satisfactory scores on their exams and offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs). If an applicator is looking for training, they can contact their local Extension Agent or access the “UF/IFAS Extension Online Learning” website here: https://ifas.catalog.instructure.com/
How to Obtain a Pesticide License
To apply for a pesticide license in the state of Florida applicators must first complete the exam or exams required for the necessary category. Below is a series of steps to follow to apply for an exam, schedule, and apply for a license:
- Access the Certification for Pesticide Examinations web page using the following link: https://pesticideexam.ifas.ufl.edu/
- To apply for an exam, applicants will need to obtain a voucher number. To get a voucher number, applicants need to click on “Apply for Examination” on the link provided above. Then select the chapter where the license you need is located (agricultural licenses fall under Chapter 487). Click “Exam Sign up.” Select “Private,” “Public” or “Commercial” depending on where you work. Fill out the form and follow the instructions and you will get your voucher number. You must obtain a voucher number for each exam you wish to take. If you have questions the UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office has created a video to walk you through this process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DX-G_jA7fI
- Once the applicator has obtained the voucher number, they will need to schedule their exam. To do this, they will have to go back to the main page and this time click on “Schedule Examination.” They will be required to enter their last name and voucher number. After that, the applicator must choose between an online exam or an in-person exam depending on their preference, and then select what time they want to take their exam. If you have questions, the UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office has created a video to walk you through this process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mcqcVVsF9E
- Once the exam is scheduled, the applicator must complete it with a passing grade of 70% or more (at least for the categories under chapter 487). The Applicators must pass both the General Standard CORE test and their category test in order to apply for a pesticide license.
- Once the exams have been completed, FDACS will send the applicator an email with instructions to apply for the pesticide license.
For more information contact your local Extension Agent or access the “Ask IFAS” publication called “FINDING THE CORRECT PESTICIDE APPLICATOR LICENSE IN FLORIDA” here: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/PI292
Luis O. Rodriguez Rosado is a Small Farms and Pesticide Education Extension Agent for UF/IFAS Extension Polk County. He can be reached at email@example.com, 863-519-1049, and http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk/