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3PM Report: Pesticide Applicator Urban Myths

As inspectors, we encourage pesticide application firms and pesticide applicators to read and become familiar with the laws and regulations pertaining to pesticide certification, business licensing, and applications, including Act 451, Part 83; Regulation 636; and Regulation 637.  Unfortunately, we often find that people do not take the time to adequately familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations, often relying on information they receive from others.  This results in common misconceptions, what we like to call “Pesticide Applicator Urban Myths”.

Myth 1:  “I don’t need to be licensed, it’s only Roundup®.”  
Roundup®, like all other herbicide products with the active ingredient glyphosate, is a pesticide.  Act 451, Part 83, clearly states that when a person applies a pesticide for hire, their firm needs to be licensed and the applicators must be certified.  Actually, Roundup® is Monsanto’s brand name for the herbicide known as glyphosate.  There are a number of glyphosate products on the market and all of them, when used for a commercial purpose, must be applied by a certified applicator.  And, if the work is done for hire, the firm must carry a license.  When a pesticide application business applies a pesticide for hire (or proposes or advertises to do so), all pesticide application licensing and certification requirements apply.

Myth 2: “I thought I could work under my co-worker’s commercial pesticide applicator certification credential.”
There was a time, back in the early 1990s, when this statement was correct.  When the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act was signed in 1994, it became necessary for each applicator in a business to be certified as a commercial applicator.  A pesticide applicator that operates in a commercial setting for hire must be certified in the State of Michigan.  If you are the person at your company that applies the pesticides – even if it’s not an application business, then you also must carry a commercial applicator credential.

The definitions for Commercial and Private Pesticide Applicator are listed in Act 451 as follows:

"Commercial applicator" means a person who is required to be a registered or certified applicator under this part, or who holds himself or herself out to the public as being in the business of applying pesticides. A commercial applicator does not include a person using a pesticide for a private agricultural purpose.

“Private agricultural applicator” means a certified applicator who uses or supervises the use of a restricted use pesticide for a private agricultural purpose.

A variant of this myth is the notion that an uncertified applicator can apply pesticides for hire while in the presence of a certified applicator.  In the case of a commercial pesticide application business, that is simply not true.  Each pesticide applicator must pass the commercial core exam and also be certified in applicable categories.  Similarly, it’s not appropriate for a certified commercial applicator to apply any product while conducting work in a category that the person is not certified for.  In the case of a farm, greenhouse, or nursery employee, an applicator may apply a general-use pesticide to the employer’s crop without being a certified applicator.  If the farm or nursery employee wants to apply a restricted-use pesticide, then they must either be under the supervision of a certified private agricultural applicator or become certified themselves.  Private applicator certification only applies to the use of pesticides employed in the production of agricultural crops.  A private applicator who wants to use a restricted use pesticide for a use other than agricultural production would have to obtain commercial certification in the appropriate category of use.

Part 83 allows for a temporary exception to the certified applicator and registered applicator requirement if the pesticide application business has an MDARD-approved training program and an approved trainer.  Once MDARD has appropriately been notified by the approved trainer of the specific date that the applicator’s pesticide training period will begin, the uncertified or unregistered applicator may apply general-use pesticides under the direct supervision of a certified applicator for a period of two consecutive weeks.

Myth 3: “My company only uses a 5-step granular fertilization program.  So, I don’t need a Pesticide Application Business License.”
I’m not sure where this myth originated, but again, this statement is not true.  Occasionally, inspectors encounter a company that applies only a 5-step granular fertilization program.  Since it is not illegal to apply fertilizers for hire without a license, perhaps it’s assumed that applying a weed and feed product, especially a granular product, wouldn’t be any different.  However, weed and feed products contain a pesticide (herbicide), and there is no exemption from the license and certification requirements for these types of products.  If any of the applications contain a pesticide, such as a pre-emergent herbicide, granular herbicide or insecticide, applicators need to comply with the law.  Pesticide ingredients are identified if they are present in fertilizers and the Environmental Protection Agency Registration Number (EPA Reg. No.) on the label verifies that the product that the applicator is applying is a pesticide.

If a business applies only fertilizer and does not provide or offer any pesticide applications, or does not bid on contracts that include those services, applicators are not required to meet the pesticide licensing and certification requirements.  Under Michigan law, if persons who hold themselves out to the public as being in the business of applying pesticides, such as placing a bid on work that includes pesticide application services or simply advertising that they conduct applications, the business must have a current license.  There are provisions for a non-licensed firm to subcontract pesticide applications to a licensed firm; please contact your MDARD inspector for more information about the MDARD’s subcontracting policy.

Myth 4: “I’m licensed; I have my card in my wallet.”
Inspectors often hear this explanation.  There is a big difference between being a certified pesticide applicator and having a license.  When an applicator passes certification exams, he/she becomes certified, and MDARD issues a certificate – a credential that must be carried when making applications.  In order to get a license to conduct business, the firm needs to employ certified applicators, meet the experience requirements, carry insurance, and then annually pay a pesticide application business licensing fee.  There are many commercial certified applicators that work for businesses and conduct applications as part of their daily routine.  However, having a certification card is only the first step to obtaining a license and conducting business.

For complete copies of Act 451, Part 83; and Regulations 636 and 637, visit the MDARD website at www.michigan.gov/mdard and search pesticide regulations.  If you have questions, contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 and we will be happy to assist you.