Wallaces Farmer

Iowa updates pesticide applicator certification

State issues more options to help pesticide applicators get certified.

Rod Swoboda

April 8, 2020

4 Min Read
peticides being applied in a field
WAIVERS: Temporary changes in Iowa regulations allow farmers and commercial applicators to be certified to legally apply pesticides this year. Rod Swoboda

The Iowa Department of Agriculture is offering regulatory relief to help first-time pesticide applicators get certified during the 2020 growing season. This comes after the department and its testing partners canceled several large, in-person testing sessions based on the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines provided by the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control. 

This April 3 announcement to help first-time applicants get their certification comes after the state ag department in late March announced a temporary waiver for pesticide applicators who were previously certified but whose certification expired at the end of 2019. Iowans who were certified through Dec. 31, 2019, now have until the end of 2020 to renew their pesticide applicator certification. Applicators will need to complete testing or training requirements by Dec. 31 after training resumes later this year.  

“These are extraordinary times, and yet we, in agriculture, have a responsibility to continue the essential functions that provide the feed and fuel to keep us running,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Thanks to Gov. Kim Reynolds for working with us to provide regulatory relief to our farmers and agribusinesses. Now the Iowa Department of Ag has the flexibility to offer additional options to pesticide applicators, which is especially important as farmers head into the planting and growing seasons.” 

Iowa issues temporary waivers 

On April 2, Reynolds signed a proclamation that temporarily suspends several regulatory provisions in Iowa pesticide law for the duration of the proclamation and any future extensions. These special waivers allow: 

New applicators. First-time commercial pesticide applicators who obtain a private applicator certification can be employed and operate under the instructions and control of a certified commercial applicator. 

Also, first-time commercial, public or private applicators can apply pesticides under the direct supervision of a certified applicator without an applicator certification. 

Online test. Individuals can take the private applicator certification test online during this public health emergency. 

Cleaning services. Commercial cleaning services can apply disinfecting or sanitizing pesticides indoors where humans live, work or congregate without a commercial pesticide applicator license. 

A proclamation signed on March 22 provided regulatory relief to pesticide applicators who were certified through Dec. 31, 2019. These individuals can retain their applicator status and now have until Dec. 31 to submit the testing or training required to renew their certifications. 

Ag department press release 

The Iowa Department of Ag issued a press release April 3 providing the following information and answers to questions the department is receiving:

Commercial applicators can obtain private applicator certification. Because of these unprecedented circumstances, individuals seeking to obtain a new commercial pesticide applicator certification may instead obtain a private applicator certification and still be employed as commercial applicators. These individuals must operate under the instructions and control of a certified commercial applicator. The supervising applicator is not required to be physically present. This waiver only applies to agricultural-land applications. It does not include aerial, lawn, turf or pest control applications. 

As part of the ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the state ag department will temporarily allow individuals to take the private applicator test online for the duration of the State Public Health Emergency. Individuals can sign up to take the private pesticide applicator test online. After passing the exam, individuals can submit their test results, application and fee to the Iowa Department of Agriculture. 

Applicators must complete the commercial applicator testing requirements after the Iowa Governor’s Proclamation expires. 

Time frame extended for uncertified applicators to work under the direct supervision of certified applicators. As per current law, an uncertified applicator can work under direct supervision of a certified applicator for 21 days. Direct supervision means the application of a pesticide is made by a competent person acting under the instructions of a certified applicator who is physically present and in sight or hearing distance.

The waiver extends this apprenticeship or training program through the duration of the proclamation and any further extensions. When the proclamation expires, first-time applicators must meet the testing requirements to obtain their certifications. 

Uncertified commercial cleaning businesses can apply disinfectant and sanitizer indoors. This waiver only applies to indoor cleaning and disinfection pesticides applied by commercial cleaning services. It does not include agricultural, aerial, lawn, turf or pest control applications. The suspension of this provision only applies for the duration of this proclamation and any future extension. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created delays in processing and mailing pesticide applicator cards and certifications. Applicators can view the status of their certifications on the Iowa Department of Ag’s public search portal. For more information, contact the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Pesticide Bureau at [email protected] or 515-281-8591. 

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