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Pesticide training protects people, the environment
By Allison Matthews
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hundreds of Mississippians apply pesticides for private or commercial purposes, and training sessions help ensure applicators handle chemicals safely for humans and the environment.
Since the 1975 enactment of the Mississippi Pesticide Application Law, Mississippi State University's Extension Service has coordinated training for those needing certification to apply restricted-use pesticides. From October 1999 to September 2000, Extension trained 2,374 Mississippi applicators for private certification, 442 became commercially certified for the first time and 476 earned commercial re-certification.
"Private certification is for people actively producing an agricultural commodity in the state of Mississippi. It's not just for those growing row crops. It also includes forestry, orchards and anything else that is considered an agricultural commodity by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce," said Elmo Collum, pesticide education program assistant at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center.
Collum said a private pesticide applicator's certification allows a producer to buy and apply a restricted-use pesticide on his own land or rented property. The certification also allows the producer to supervise the use of the pesticide by other workers on his land.
"All other applicators who want to apply or supervise applications of a restricted-use pesticide must apply for commercial certification," Collum said.
When training for commercial certification, applicants may choose from 14 categories of specific pesticide usages. These include forest pest control, aquatic pest control, right-of-way pest control, aerial application and a variety of other usages needed by different professionals. Collum said there are many jobs that require knowledge about using a pesticide for one or more very specific situations.
Collum said Extension's training offers many advantages in addition to meeting state and federal requirements for applicators. Safety issues are the biggest reasons for initial training and re-certification.
"It's very important to make a safe application and have an understanding of the chemicals," Collum said. "We want to make sure humans are safe and the environment is safe when the application is made and afterwards."
In addition to safety, when it comes to commercial certification, training is valuable from a liability standpoint as well.
"By being trained in a federal and state approved training program, an applicator reduces his or her liability. If an accident does occur, an applicator can respond in a proper and legal manner," Collum said.
Those applying for private certification receive a manual on "Applying Pesticides Correctly" and must attend a training session where they will view a video presentation that corresponds with the manual. During the classroom training session, attendants will discuss the material and receive information about other federal regulations with which they must comply, such as the Worker Protection Standard and Federal Record Keeping Act. For certification, individuals must also pass a short exam and be 18 years of age or older. Private certification must be renewed every five years.
When applying for commercial certification, individuals receive the general manual and a manual for each specific category they wish to be certified in. Applicants must pass tests on both the general standards and their specific category materials. Commercial certification expires after three years, but individuals are not required to re-take exams if they attend a re-certification meeting.
Collum stressed that commercial certification does not allow an applicator to collect a fee for applying pesticides for other people. He said the Bureau of Plant Industry oversees licensing requirements that allow an individual or company to charge for pesticide application services.
Initial and re-certification training sessions are scheduled by local county agents and are usually offered in every county a few times a year. For more information on pesticide training, visit Extension's website.