2011 Bureau of Agrichemical Management Annual Report

​​Certification & Licensing

Program HighlightsDATCP is responsible for administration of the state’s pesticide applicator certification and licensing programs. Certification is required to show that individuals can competently apply pesticides and follow regulations; licensing gives individuals the professional credentials to be a pesticide applicator. The department licenses pesticide application businesses, restricted-use pesticide dealers and commercial pesticide applicators.


Individuals that apply restricted-use pesticides or that commercially apply pesticides must become certified pesticide applicators. To become certified an applicator must 1) purchase a training manual from the University of Wisconsin Pesticide Applicator Training Program (UWEX PAT) and, 2) pass DATCP’s written certification exam. People may be certified as a commercial or private applicator. Certification is valid for five years from date of testing.

Commercial certification exams are proctored at DATCP locations in Eau Claire, Green Bay, Madison, Spooner, Waukesha, and Wausau. Exams are also given at the conclusion of UWEX PAT training sessions and after certain UW and Technical College courses. Over 3,000 commercial and 3,500 private applicators were certified during 2011.

Commercial applicator certification covers a broad array of individuals that make pesticide applications as independent contractor for hire. As can be seen in Table 1​, the department certifies commercial applicators in 20 use specific certification categories spanning a wide range of industries such as structural pest control, lawn care, crop production, mosquito control, right of way maintenance and wood preservation. There are over 15,000 certified commercial applicators in Wisconsin. 

Private applicators are individuals that apply or handle restricted-use pesticides on property used for the production of an agricultural commodity which is owned or rented by the applicator or their employer. Table 2 indicates the certification categories for private applicators. Private applicators may elect to attend training offered by their county UWEX agent. Private applicator exams are also offered by county UWEX agents. There are approximately 12,000 private applicators in Wisconsin.

Chart 1 shows the total number of private and commercial applicators that have been certified in each of the last five years.

DATCP collaborates with the University of Wisconsin Extension Pesticide Applicator Program (UW PAT) on applicator education and outreach activities. Certification training manuals are revised by UWEX PAT on a five-year cycle. DATCP develops a new certification exam for each manual that is revised or more frequently if needed. To ensure technical accuracy and fair exam questions, DATCP and UWEX staff work collaboratively during both the manual and exam revision process. In 2011, three training manuals and four exams were updated. PAT held 14 training sessions in 6 different categories; DATCP proctored exams at these sessions. Also, new program managers at both PAT and DATCP were hired. 


There are three pesticide related licenses issued by DATCP. Chart 2 indicates​ the total numbers of licenses issued for each of the last five years.

Program Activities

Commercial for-hire pesticide applicators and handlers must be both licensed and certified, whether they are using restricted-use or general use pesticides. Commercial not-for-hire applicators (e.g. a groundskeeper that only applies pesticides at their employer’s commercial building) must be certified and licensed only if applying or handling restricted-use pesticides. The licenses must be renewed each year. In 2011, there were 6,650 licensed commercial for-hire applicators, and 5,540 licensed commercial not-for-hire applicators. Of the commercial not-for-hire applicators, 765 of these license holders were employees of governmental or educational institutions.

DATCP staff coordinates pesticide issues with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), related to wildlife, including consultation on the issuance of 14 pesticide purchase and use permit applications for small mammal control, and the issuance of 78 pest bird permits (repel and destroy). Staff was involved in the DNR implementation process for the newly created Wisconsin aquatic pest control pollutant discharge general permit​.

Expanded Certification Testing Area

The certification exam testing area at the Madison DATCP office was remodeled during 2011. The expansion of the exam room allows an additional six applicators to test at each session. The remodeled area also provides better security for staff.

New Certification Cards

After passing their exam, pesticide applicators are issued certification cards. Due to the department’s obsolete card printing equipment, staff researched options to replace the existing red and black certification cards. The new cards are a more flexible material, similar to the type of cards used by insurance companies. These cards can be printed at the same time as the exam results letter. It is a more efficient and less expensive card to produce. DATCP will begin issuing the new white certification cards to applicators in 2012.

Common Rule Violations 

The department continues to encounter individuals operating as pesticide applicators without proper certification and licensing. In certain business sectors, such as lawn care, failure to obtain the proper certification is often attributed to a lack of knowledge of state pesticide regulations. Sale of restricted-use pesticides to uncertified individuals were also documented during 2011. Individual and business licensing violations are frequently associated with certification violations. 

Direction for the Coming Year

DATCP intends to complete the ATCP 29 rule revision next year. Program staff continued to work on the ATCP 29 rule change during 2011. Proposed revisions include improved consistency with ATCP 33, Fertilizer and Pesticide Bulk Storage, new regulations on non-agricultural chemigation and urban pesticide misting systems, requirements to label exterior pesticide bait stations, including certification for natural areas pesticide treatments in the turf and landscape category and allowing electronic notification of customers. The DATCP Board approved the public hearing draft at their December 2011 meeting, and public hearings on the rule were scheduled for February 2012. 

The department will focus on certification and licensing compliance in the lawn care industry during 2012. The turf and landscape certification category has the largest number of applicators and a high employee turnover rate at lawn care businesses which results in a high non-compliance rate for certification and licensing regulations. The department received an EPA grant to fund the increased effort for this business sector.

Next year staff will assist UWEX PAT revise five certification category training manuals, including the manual for soil fumigation. New certification exams will be developed for each category that is scheduled to have a training manual revised. 

For more information about any of the bureau programs you may email the department.

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