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Citrus Industry Magazine CEU 2013 Articles Test Series: Article #2

Pesticide law

CEU CentralBy Stephen H. Futch

Posted May 1, 2013
(expires Apr. 30, 2014)

Ifas ExtensionOn a national level, pesticide applicator certification programs have been developed to protect public health and prevent adverse effects to the environment from improper pesticide use. These federal and state rules regulate labeling, sale and distribution, storage, transportation, use, application and disposal of pesticides. The U.S. Congress enacted the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in 1947. This federal law has been subsequently amended several times. The enabling legislation is administered on the national level by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Under FIFRA, EPA is responsible for registering or authorizing pesticide products for sale and use within the United States. This registration process is based upon detailed assessments of the potential effects that a proposed product may have on human health and the environment, even when used according to label directions. These label directions are enforceable under both state and federal laws. Using a pesticide in any way not recommended on the label may subject the user to civil and/or criminal penalties. The law allows the EPA to stop the sale or use of any pesticides that are deemed to pose an unreasonable risk. States may have even more restrictive product labels. However, labeling and packaging must be uniform nationwide including container type, size and color.

All states have cooperative agreements with EPA designating an agency within that state to enforce the provisions of FIFRA. In Florida, the designated agency is the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

To achieve safe pesticide use on both a state and local level, pesticide applicator certification has been developed as a joint program between the FDACS, Division of Agricultural Environmental Services (AES) and the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS). This program has been approved by EPA for the certification of applicators that use restricted-use pesticides (RUP) in agricultural situations.

Under FIFRA, all pesticides are classified according to their potential hazards based upon the way they will be used in agricultural situations. Pesticides are classified as "unclassified" or "restricted" use. Unclassified pesticides are also called "general-use" pesticides. General-use pesticides have lower toxicity than restricted-use pesticides, thus posing less potential harm to humans or the environment. General-use pesticides can be purchased and used by agricultural operations and the general public without special permits or restrictions. Pesticides are classified as restricted use if the pesticide might result in unreasonable adverse effects on human health and/or the environment unless applied by trained persons in accordance with label directions. In a few cases, the active ingredient may be restricted use if the pesticide contains a high percent active ingredient (AI), whereas the same chemical with a lower percent AI may be classified as general use.

RUPs may be sold only to certified and properly licensed applicators, holding either private or commercial applicator licenses. A private applicator is defined as a certified applicator that uses or supervises the use of RUPs for the purpose of producing an agricultural commodity (plants or animals which are sold rather than for personal use) on his or her own property or property that he/she rents or leases. Private applicators may also be employees of an operation that owns, rents or leases land for the purpose of producing an agricultural commodity. A commercial applicator is an individual who uses or supervises the use of any RUP for any purpose on any property except for those provided under the private certification definition.

Under governmental regulations, federal law requires that individuals who apply RUPs must be certified themselves or work under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. This federal law contains specific standards to ensure competency related to the safe use and application of pesticides for all states. In Florida, licenses issued by FDACS meet this federal regulation. State regulations may impose additional certification and license requirements for various pesticide applications, license fees, and specify the procedures required to obtain a license as well as those for recertification or renewal. In Florida, UF-IFAS coordinates the pesticide applicator certification and training programs related to the pesticide license process.


Chapter 487, F.S., is also referred to as the Florida Pesticide Law. This law regulates both general-use pesticides and RUPs. The law establishes three classes of individuals who apply RUP. The law requires licenses only for those individuals who apply or supervise the use of RUPs. The three classes are: private, public and commercial applicators. All three applicator classifications apply pesticide by ground for the production of agricultural commodities and are prohibited from making aerial applications unless properly certified and licensed.

A private applicator, as stated above, is someone who applies RUPs on property that is owned or rented by the applicator or the applicator's employer. In the case where ornamental and turf plants are produced in an agricultural setting, the private license is sufficient. On the other hand, a private license is not appropriate for individuals who maintain ornamentals or turf at golf courses, residential properties or in commercial landscape situations. Examples of a private applicator of RUPs include farmers, ranchers and/or nurserymen.

A public applicator is someone employed by a federal, state, county or city government or other local agency or governmental entities, such as state universities, who uses RUPs as part of his/her job duties. When an applicator holds a public RUP license, the license is valid only for work performed for the governmental agency during its public employment tasks.

A commercial applicator is someone who applies RUPs on any agricultural area for purposes other than provided under the two license types discussed previously. Commercial applicators apply RUPs for someone else and are not the owners or operators of the agricultural operations where RUPs are being applied. Examples of commercial applicators of RUPs include for-hire contractors of pesticide applications such as citrus caretakers. Note: Under Chapter 487, F.S., there are categories such as "aquatics," "right-of-way," "ornamental and turf" and "natural areas weed management" which are not directly related to the production of agricultural commodities. They are included under this state statute because applications are not around buildings where people live and work.

An applicator can only make applications of RUP in the categories for which he/she has been licensed. A commercial agricultural tree crop license holder may not apply RUP in row crop or turf operations since neither are tree crops.

A section under Chapter 487, F.S., limits how, when or where specific pesticides can be used in Florida. Specific regulations governing regulated pesticides include limitations on bromacil (herbicide), methyl bromide (soil fumigant), organotin antifouling paints and organo-auxin herbicides. Additional rules also detail how restricteduse pesticides are stored, the disposal of certain kinds of waste pesticide materials, examinations to obtain a license, licensing fees, license renewal, direct supervision of unlicensed workers and record keeping.


Training materials for all agricultural categories are available from the University of Florida, either online at or by calling 1-800-226-1764.

Testing for a RUP license is available at all county Extension Service offices in Florida for the general standards and private applicators agricultural pest control. Selected county offices will also offer training for public and commercial applicators in categories appropriate to their clientele. For training and testing opportunities in Florida, check with your local Extension Service office.

Under Florida law, applicants for licenses under Chapter 487, F.S., must demonstrate knowledge and competency in the use of pesticides. All applicants must be at least 18 years of age and must pass at least two examinations for initial certification before obtaining a license. All examinations are given in English and cannot be translated into other languages orally or in writing in any form. All exams are multiple choice and given closed book without notes or written formulas. Applicants must answer at least 70 percent of the questions correctly to receive a license. Fees to obtain a license are $100 for private and public licenses and $250 for commercial licenses. All licenses are valid for four years.

To obtain a private license, applicants must pass the general standards or core exam and the private applicator agricultural pest control exam. Public and commercial applicators are required to pass the general standards/core exam and an examination for each category of intended use. Public and commercial applicators may be licensed in as many categories as they wish. A total of 15 category exams include but are not limited to pest control in agricultural animal, row crop, tree crop, aquatic, demonstration and research, forest, natural area weed management and private applicator.

Once the license has been obtained, the applicant must recertify every four years to maintain his or her license. Recertification is to ensure demonstrated continued competency in the proper use of pesticides. Individuals can recertify by retaking the certification exams or accumulating the specified number of continuing education units (CEUs) during the licensing period to renew their licenses.

When renewing a private applicator RUP license, at least eight CEUs must be earned over the four-year license period, of which at least four CEUs must be in general standards (core) and at least four CEUs in the private category. Commercial applicators must earn at least four CEUs in general standards and between four and 16 additional CEUs in each category. For example, a commercial license holder certified in agricultural tree crop must earn at least eight CEUs in the ag tree crop category in addition to the four CEUs in the general standards area. Table 1 lists the specific CEU requirement for each type of commercial RUP license.

Pesticide Law Table 1

When applying any pesticide, it is important to read and follow the pesticide label as the label is the law.

Sources of information for this document included: Pesticide Applicator Certification and Licensing in Florida — Florida Department of Agriculture, and Consumer Services, and Applying Pesticide Correctly, SM1 – University of Florida IFAS Extension.

Stephen H. Futch is an Extension agent at the Citrus Research & Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL.


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