2014 Bureau of Agrichemical Management Annual Report

​​​​​Pesticide Certification and Licensing 

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 who apply restricted-use pesticides or commercially apply pesticides must become certified pesticide applicators. To become certified, an applicator must purchase a training manual from the University of Wisconsin Pesticide Applicator Training program (UW PAT) and pass DATCP’s written certification exam. People may be certified as commercial or private applicators. Certification is valid for five years from date of testing. DATCP administered over 6,600 certification exams in 2014.

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 3,700 commercial and 1,900 private applicators were certified during 2014.​

Commercial applicator certification covers a broad array of individuals who apply pesticides 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. Wisconsin’s commercial applicators hold 18,000 certifications in these categories.

Private applicators are individuals who apply or handle restricted-use pesticides on property owned or rented by the applicator or his/her employer and used to produce agricultural commodities. Table 2 indicates the certification categories​ for private applicators. Private applicators may elect to attend training offered by their county UW extension (UWEX) agents, who also offer private applicator exams. There are approximately 12,400 private applicators holding 14,900 certifications in Wisconsin.

Chart 1 shows the total​ number of private and commercial certifications held 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 2014, three commercial training manuals were revised and the corresponding exams were updated. UW PAT held 20 training sessions in seven 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. An individual commercial applicator license is required for anyone applying a restricted-use pesticide as a commercial applicator or applying any pesticide on a for-hire basis, excluding janitorial use of sanitizers, disinfectants and germicides. A pesticide application business license​ is required for any business making for-hire pesticide applications. A restricted-use pesticide dealer license​ is required for pesticide dealers selling restricted-use pesticides.

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 who applies pesticides only at his/her 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 2014, there were 6,950 licensed commercial for-hire applicators, and 1,350 licensed commercial not-for-hire applicators. Of the commercial not-for-hire applicators, 680 were employees of governmental or educational institutions. The number of individual commercial applicators increased by over 30 percent in 2014 from 2013. Over half of this increase is attributable to an actual increase, including a large upsurge in turf and landscape applicators and businesses. However, the rest of the increase is related to a database querying error in 2013 that resulted in significant undercounting of the licensed applicators in that year. Due to system limitations, the Department cannot correct the 2013 error.

Pesticide issues related to wildlife are coordinated with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), including consultation on the issuance of 6 pesticide purchase and use permit applications for small mammal control, and the issuance of 84 pest bird permits.

Common Rule Violations

The Department continues to encounter individuals operating as pesticide applicators without proper certification and licensing. During 2014, the Department identified violations at 11 businesses operating without the proper licensure, or employing uncertified or unlicensed applicators. Nine individuals were also penalized for applying pesticides without proper individual commercial applicator licenses. Most of these violations related to non-licensure were with the turf and landscape industry. Failure to obtain the proper licensure is often attributed to a lack of knowledge of state pesticide regulations.

Records inspections and pesticide use observations uncovered 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 47 application businesses during 2014. The three most common violations were incomplete application records, inadequate post-application information, and failure to provide the customer with either pre- or post-application information. Restricted-use pesticide dealers are also required to keep sales record​s. The two most common violations were incomplete sales records and sales of restricted–use pesticides to uncertified individuals. Generally, violations involving sales of restricted-use pesticides to uncertified individuals results in enforcement action against the company as well as the uncertified individual.

Direction for the Coming Year

The Department will increase the number inspections for compliance with the pesticide application record keeping requirements in 2015. This includes expanding the focus to a wider variety of industries. 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 four certification category training manuals and will write new certification exams for each revised category.​

In addition, DATCP is partnering with the UW-La Crosse, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Parkside and UW-Platteville campuses to offer commercial pesticide certification exams during February through April. This will include a weekend test date. The Department will evaluate this pilot project, and other options to offer more certification exam testing opportunities in future years.

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

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