2013 Bureau of Agrichemical Management Annual Report

​​Pesticide Certification and LicensingPesticide certification and licensing program highlights 2013

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 3,300 commercial and 3,100 private applicators were certified during 2013.

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 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 13,000 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 tota​l 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. Each time the training manuals are revised DATCP develops a new certification exam. To ensure technical accuracy and fair exam questions, DATCP and UW PAT staff collaborate during both the manual and exam revision process. In 2013, five commercial and two private training manuals were revised and the seven corresponding exams were updated. UW PAT held 18 training sessions in six different commercial 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 2013, there were 5,100 licensed commercial for-hire applicators, and 1,000 licensed commercial not-for-hire applicators. Of the commercial not-for-hire applicators, 730 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 3 pesticide purchase and use permit applications for small mammal control, and the issuance of 49 pest bird permits. 

Expanded Certification Category 6.0 Rights-of-Way and Natural Areas

On June 1, 2013, revisions to ch. ATCP 29, Wis. Adm. Code took effect. One of the changes was an expansion of the Certification Category 6.0 to include pesticide applications to natural areas. Historically applications in Category 6.0 were limited to rights of ways. Applicators certified in the newly revised Category 6.0 can make applications to natural areas including native, undeveloped or wild land and land that is preserved or restored and managed for its natural or native features, including parks, forests, and native grassland on public and private land. Other ATCP 29 rule revisions improved consistency with ATCP 33, Fertilizer and Pesticide Bulk Storage, added new regulations on non-agricultural chemigation and urban pesticide misting systems, added requirements to label exterior rodenticide bait stations, and allows electronic notification of customers. Outreach to assist industry and the public understand the new rule requirements occurred during 2013.

Online Scheduling of Pesticide Applicator Exams 

Over the course of 2013, an increasing number of commercial pesticide applicators started using http://pestexam.datcp.wi.gov to schedule certification exams. Industry has stated their appreciation for how the new online system has improved the scheduling process for applicators and businesses. The volume of scheduling phone calls to DATCP has been greatly reduced.

Common Rule Violations 

The department continues to encounter individuals operating as pesticide applicators without proper certification and licensing. During 2013, the department identified 10 businesses operating without the proper licensure, or employing unlicensed applicators. Failure to obtain the proper licensure is often attributed to a lack of knowledge of state pesticide regulations. Approximately 50 violations were linked to lack of certification and licensing.

Records inspections and use observations uncovered over 130 various violations. Commercial applicators must keep a record of each pesticide application for two years.  DATCP investigators reviewed application records for compliance at more than 45 application businesses during 2013. 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. The two most common violations were sales of restricted–use pesticides to uncertified individuals and incomplete sales records 

Direction for the Coming Year

The department will continue assisting industry in understanding and complying with the ATCP 29 revisions that went into effect during 2013. This includes a focus on the certification needs of applicators working to control both terrestrial and aquatic invasive species. Application businesses employing unlicensed and uncertified business will continue to be a focus area. Over the next year the department will assist UW PAT in revising five certification category training manuals and will write new certification exams for each revised category. 

In addition, DATCP is partnering with the University of Wisconsin La Crosse and UW Parkside campuses on a pilot project to offer exams at new test locations. This will include scheduling a weekend test date. The department will evaluate this pilot project, and other options to offer more certification exam testing opportunities future years.

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

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