Federal and Texas state regulators are proposing changes to the agriculture pesticide applicator's license requirements that will affect all current and future license holders if approved.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a public comment period that will end November 23. If farmers would like to comment on the proposed rules they are encouraged to do so before the comment period expires.
EPA is proposing stronger standards for pesticide applicators who apply “restricted-use” pesticides. These pesticides are not available for purchase by the general public, require special handling, and may only be applied by a certified applicator or someone working under his or her direct supervision.
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"We are committed to keeping our communities safe, protecting our environment and protecting workers and their families", said Jim Jones, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. "By improving training and certification, those who apply these restricted use pesticides will have better knowledge and ability to use these pesticides safely."
Jones told reporters that proposed action is intended to reduce the likelihood of harm from the misapplication of toxic pesticides and ensure a consistent level of protection among states. EPA says under terms of the changes pesticide use would be safer with increased supervision and oversight.
Several of the proposed changes will directly affect private applicators involved in production agriculture.
Federal regulators propose to change minimum age of licensee to 18 years old (currently 16 years old) and the requirement to re-certify private applicators every 3 years (currently every 5 years).
Also, within the 3 years, private applicators will be required to earn 6 CEUs covering the general private applicator certification requirements and 3 CEUs per category of certification. Applicators will also be required to have completed one-half of required CEUs within 18 months of license expiration date.
Additional proposed changes include pesticide handler training on a yearly basis instead of the current 5 year requirement.
"EPA is proposing additional specialized licensing for certain methods of application that can pose greater risks if not conducted properly, such as fumigation and aerial application. For further protection, those working under the supervision of certified applicators would now need training on using pesticides safely and protecting their families from take-home pesticide exposure," Jones added.
State agencies issue licenses to pesticide applicators who need to demonstrate under an EPA-approved program their ability to use these products safely. The proposed revisions would reduce the burden on applicators and pest control companies that work across state lines. The proposal promotes consistency across state programs by encouraging inter-state recognition of licenses.
The proposal also updates the requirements for States, Tribes, and Federal agencies that administer their own certification programs to incorporate the strengthened standards. Many states already have in place some or many of EPA’s proposed changes. The proposed changes would raise the bar nationally to a level that most states have already achieved. The estimated benefits of $80.5 million would be due to fewer acute pesticide incidents to people.
In addition to the proposed federal changes, the Texas Department of Agriculture is proposing fee increases for applicator licenses and tests. For a private applicator the current fee is $60, but under the state's revised fee schedule that will increase to $100. A comment period for the state changes is open until November 9. The link to make comments to the TDA fee change is email@example.com.
EPA encourages public comment on the proposed improvements. See a copy of the proposal and more information about certification for pesticide applicators.
To comment on the proposed changes, visit http://www.regulations.gov