Pesticide certification: Who needs it?

There has been some confusion with respect to who is required to have pesticide certification — either private or commercial certification. This article is based on information provided by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) to clarify this issue. KDA wants to make sure that everyone using pesticides on the farm is aware of who needs to be certified/licensed.

What does it mean to be an applicator?

This is more than just the person operating the sprayer/spreader or holding the spray wand. The person who handles the product while mixing and loading the equipment is also considered an applicator. This makes sense as handling pesticide concentrates has a high potential for exposure. Any person making an application of a Restricted Use Product (RUP), including the person handling the product during mixing of the pesticide and loading the sprayer/spreader, must be a certified pesticide applicator.

Figure 1. Certification for both private and commercial applicators lasts 3 years with different requirements for re-certification (Photo: Ric Bessin, UK).

What are the types of certification?

There are two types of pesticide certification: private applicator certification and commercial applicator certification.

A private applicator is a person certified to use any pesticide for purposes of producing any agricultural commodity on property owned or rented by him/her or his/her employer.  It also applies to applications made to the lands of a farmer-neighbor, if pesticides are applied without compensation other than trading of personal services between producers of agricultural commodities. So private applicators may apply treatments to their own property or their employer; they may even make applications for neighbors as long as they do not receive any form of a cash payment.

A commercial applicator is defined as any person who engages in the business of applying any pesticide to the lands of another while receiving financial compensation. If the applicator charges a fee to make the pesticide application, they will need a Commercial Applicator’s License.

There are a number of categories for commercial applicators, and some commercial applicators may need to be certified in more than one category to cover the types of work they perform. There are no categories with private applicator certification.

The KDA also clarified that an individual making any application to an agricultural commodity must be a certified pesticide applicator. This is where there is some confusion: producers often think certification applies only to restricted-use products, when it applies to any and all pesticide applications to agricultural commodities. Certification can be through private applicator or commercial certification.


Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist



Posted in Pesticide Topics
%d bloggers like this: