2012 Bureau of Agrichemical Management Annual Report

2012 Pesticide Certification and LicensingPesticide certification and licensing program highlights 2012

DATCP 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 (UW 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 UW PAT training sessions and after certain UW and Technical College courses. Over 3,000 commercial and 2,100 private applicators were certified during 2012.

Commercial applicator certification covers a broad array of individuals that make pesticide applications as an independent contractor for hire. As can be seen in Table 1, the department certifies commercial applicators in 20 use 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 14,000 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 UW-Extension (UWEX) agent. Private applicator exams are also offered by county UWEX agents. There are approximately 15,000 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 UW PAT program on applicator education and outreach activities. Certification training manuals are revised by UW 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 UW PAT staff collaborate during both the manual and exam revision process. In 2012, five training manuals and nine exams were updated. UW PAT held 18 training sessions in six different categories; DATCP proctored exams at each of these sessions.


There are three pesticide-related licenses issued by DATCP. Chart 2 indicates the total number of licenses issued during 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 2012, there were 7,200 licensed commercial for-hire applicators, and 1,500 licensed commercial not-for-hire applicators. Of the commercial not-for-hire applicators, 750 were employees of governmental or educational institutions.

Pesticide issues related to wildlife are coordinated with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), including consultation on the issuance of 13 pesticide purchase and use permit applications for small mammal control, and the issuance of 52 pest bird permits (repel and destroy). 

In April 2012 DATCP piloted a large group exam only session in Madison. Over 60 individuals tested at this Saturday exam.  Attendance was less than expected because many applicators tested earlier than normal due to the early start of spring in 2012.

Online Scheduling of Pesticide Applicator Exams 

Commercial pesticide applicators can now schedule their certification exams online. In December 2012 the department began using an online exam registration program, http://pestexam.datcp.wi.gov. Previously applicators had to call DATCP to schedule an exam at one of the department’s testing locations. Implementation of the new system has improved the scheduling process for applicators and businesses while greatly reducing the volume of phone calls to DATCP.

Common Rule Violations

The department continues to encounter individuals operating as pesticide applicators without proper certification and licensing. During 2012 the department identified over 50 businesses that did not have proper licensure, or that employed unlicensed applicators. Failure to obtain the proper certification is often attributed to a lack of knowledge of state pesticide regulations. 

Records inspections uncovered over 150 violations. Commercial applicators must keep a record of each pesticide application for two years.  DATCP investigators reviewed application records for compliance at more than 50 application businesses during 2012. The three most common violations were incomplete application records, the post application information was lacking information and failure to provide the customer with either pre or post application information.  Restricted-use pesticide dealers are also required to keep sales records. Incomplete sales records were the most common violation. Less frequent, yet more concerning, are sales of restricted–use pesticides to uncertified individuals. 

Direction for the Coming Year

The ATCP 29 rule revision will take effect June 1, 2013.  Program staff worked on the ATCP 29 rule changes during 2012, including holding two public hearings in February 2012. 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 area pesticide treatments in the right-of-way category and allowing electronic notification of customers. After staff made adjustments to the draft rule based on public input, the DATCP Board approved the final rule draft at their August 2012 meeting. The final rule package was submitted to the legislature in December 2012. Outreach to assist industry and the public understand the new rule requirements will occur during 2013.

Next year staff will assist UW PAT in revising six certification category training manuals.

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

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