Update Your Crop Protection Compliance

Ever wondered why in a digital age most pesticide license related transactions are still done using paper and mail? Have you taken the same exam over and over again, waiting weeks in between before finally being notified of a passing score? If this sounds like you, then recent changes in how pesticide licenses are obtained may lift your spirits.


Exams taken on computer were piloted early in 2013 in limited UF/IFAS county extension offices around the state. The Web-based service was expanded to include a larger number of counties in late 2013 and additional expansion is expected in the coming months. Be aware that the process for taking exams on computer is a bit different than the standard paper and pencil method. Here’s what you need to know:
1) You must register for a voucher with FDACS in order to take an exam on computer. You must schedule a time to take the exam at a site which offers computer exams.
2) You will find out if you passed immediately after taking the exam and you may retake the exam once in the same day, assuming your exam site can accommodate the extra time.
3) The computer exams draw from a larger bank of questions; limit you to two rather than three hours per exam and the system is not yet perfected. Paper exams are still available.

Start By Getting A Voucher
Detailed directions for obtaining a voucher are provided at the end of this section, but let’s start with an overview of the process. To register for a voucher you’ll need to have an email address and sign up for an FDACS account through their website. The system will assign you a five digit PIN, which you will need throughout the process. You will need to be able to access your email during the setup process to activate your account. This can make it difficult to get a voucher on a walk-in basis at the Extension office. Based on experience with the system thus far, the process is vastly smoother if the voucher process is completed before arriving to take an exam. Most offices will bend over backwards to help but depending on the time and location this may not be possible. The process may be a bit intimidating at first. Comments so far have ranged from “No problem!” to “It took a half an hour just to get a voucher.”

Once you have activated your account and logged back in using your email and five digit PIN, you can select if you want to renew or apply for a new license. You will need to know if you want a public, private or commercial license and then you can select the exams you want to take. You can select a maximum of three exams per voucher number obtained and you do not have to take all of them in one day. Your voucher number will remain valid for one year. You will have to submit and confirm your selections and then the system will generate a voucher number. You will need this voucher number to sign in to take an exam and the system will display it on the screen and eMail it to you.

After getting the voucher number, the next step in the process is to schedule an exam. Offices offering exams on computer have listed their available dates and times on the scheduling page of the website and may also offer exams by appointment, depending on the office. It may be best to contact the office and ask about their method of scheduling apart from listed times, as flexibility for those wishing to repeat an exam, or those finishing early is difficult to reflect in the available scheduling tool.

Click here to find detailed instructions for how to register for a voucher here.
If you are not sure which license you need or if you need a public, private or commercial license, find lots of licensing information using the references below.

Advantage 1: Know If You Passed Right Away
It’s no secret that many exams require multiple attempts by many applicators. The aquatics exam in particular is notorious for its success rate to those that have not put in the time to study. The new system will not allow you to pass the aquatics exam without studying, however it will let you know right away if you passed or not and it will also give you a report listing your score in the exam’s five competency areas. This lets you know, for example, that you need to spend more time on the herbicides or the calculations in particular.

Another advantage is the ability to retake the exam right away. Before you think of passing the second time because you saw the questions already on the first round, note that the exams are now different each time you take them. Questions are randomly drawn proportionally from the five competency areas and are not the same for each exam, plus they are not in the same order. Again taking the exam to learn the test and not necessarily the material will not help you pass.
So far the option to take the exam again has been helpful for Polk County applicators. It has helped those that just missed passing by a question or two and made the appointment a more efficient use of their time rather than waiting weeks for score turn around in between exams.

No Substitute For Knowing The Material
Computer based exams will not replace paper exams all together. Paper exams are still the only option in some counties and are great for large events or applicators not familiar with using computers. Those that see the advantage of the computer based exams should note that the larger bank of questions means that knowing the material is even more important since new questions have been added and may test a wider knowledge base than the paper exams. Also note that the computer exams are limited to two rather than three hours per exam allowed for paper exams.

Technical Difficulties
In a perfect world, the new exam process would seamlessly test the knowledge and skill of applicators without the distraction of technical difficulties. However, with any new process, a few hiccups along the way are to be expected. Thus far technical difficulties have been an overall minor issue. Generally those that have used the new process in Polk County have been overall satisfied and pleased with the ability to find out their scores right away. That being said, the process is not yet perfected and some technical difficulties have occurred, likely due to variable connectivity issues. These will be sorted out before the option will be offered in additional counties.

Pay And Renew Online
Tech savvy applicators will appreciate the recent changes to allow applicators to pay for licenses and renew them online. Actually this ability is not all that recent, though many applicators seem to be unaware of the option. Renewing licenses online has been available since January of 2011 followed by new license transaction availability in 2013.

To use the online process, start by logging into the eCommerce website  (https://aesecomm.freshfromflorida.com). If you took an exam on computer, this is the same website used to obtain your voucher. Once you login, you can choose to pay for a new license or renew an existing one. The new license feature will be available when you have passed both the Core and a category exam. If you took an exam on computer, expect to use the pay online feature a day or two after you have passed both the Core and a category exam. The system is updated with new scores daily, and you will receive an email letting you know you can pay online when the system has been updated to include your scores.

Tips For A Smooth Renewal
1) Make sure you have all the CEUs in the appropriate categories required to renew. The online system will not check this for you. FDACS will manually check the CEU sheets submitted to verify you have met all the requirements. Missing one or more of the required CEUs will delay the process.
2) Make sure you fill out and sign all of the attendance forms. Uploading them online rather than mailing them will shorten the process. You can also choose to fax them directly to FDACS. Either way, if the attendance forms are not complete and signed, the process will be delayed.
3) Expect up to two weeks turnaround time for renewal, assuming you have submitted all of the required and completed CEU attendance forms. You can renew online up to sixty days in advance of license expiration and as much as a year after your license has expired. Note that a late fee of $50 will be required to renew your restricted use license if you wait sixty days after it expires.
Detailed instructions on using the system are available after you have logged in to the eCommerce site. Click on the tutorial button at the bottom of the left sidebar.

Not sure how many CEUs you need? All restricted use licenses require four Core CEUs for renewal, but the category CEU requirement differs. Check yours here.
Recent Expansion of Available Limited Licenses
Limited Urban Commercial Fertilizer Applicator Certification
Those working in the landscape industry should be familiar with the requirement for a “license” to apply fertilizer commercially. The law, Florida Statute 482.1562, originally passed several years ago, but came into effect statewide beginning January 1, 2014. I’ve used quotes around the word license here to try to clarify the difference between the certification obtained by passing the Green Industries Best Management Practices (GIBMP) post-test and the certification, or “license” obtained from FDACS. You must first achieve GIBMP certification by passing the training post-test and then apply and pay for the FDACS certificate or “license”. Many areas around the state are already familiar with the “license” and certification required to get it due to local ordinances, which have been in effect in some localities for several years.
The new “license” is legally referred to as the Limited Urban Commercial Fertilizer Applicator Certification.

This is the process for obtaining the Limited Urban Commercial Fertilizer Applicator Certification:
1) Receive training through the Green Industries Best Management Practices (GIBMP) program. This can be done by attending a program offered frequently at Extension offices and private venues across the state. The program is also offered via online modules for a $15 fee or a free DVD, both available through the Green Industries Best Management Practices Website.
2) Pass the post-test with at least 75% correct and you’ll be certified in the GIBMPs. You’ll receive a certificate and wallet card in the mail in about two weeks to a month. You will then use this certificate to apply for the “license” if needed.
3) Fill out the application including proof of your GIBMP certification and pay $25 for the Limited Urban Commercial Fertilizer Applicator Certification, or “license”.
Institutional Applicators may not need to complete the process to have the “license” because the “license” requirement pertains only to commercial fertilizer applicators. There is a distinction between commercial and institutional applicators. Institutional applicators are those applying fertilizer as a direct employee of a property such as a school or apartment complex. A contractor hired to apply fertilizer on urban turf in these areas would be commercial and thus require the “license”. Urban turf generally means turfgrass associated with a building. It does not include areas deemed agricultural such as sports fields and golf courses.

Institutional applicators statewide may not be required to obtain the “license”, however they are most likely required to at least receive the training through adoption of local ordinances. Florida Statue 403.9337 requires governmental units that have water bodies impaired by nutrients to adopt the Department of Environmental Protection Model Ordinance for Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Use on Urban Landscapes. A more stringent ordinance may be adopted if the government can confirm a science-based need and the economic and technical feasibility of the more stringent measures. Under the minimum standards of the model ordinance, institutional applicators must abide by the Green Industries Best Management Practices and complete the training, but are not required to have the “license”.

Note that local ordinances may supersede the model ordinance with additional requirements and they override the model ordinance if they were adopted before 2009 or contain more stringent requirements. Many ordinances contain more stringent measures than the model ordinance, such as restrictions to the timing and analysis of fertilizer allowed. Also bear in mind that ordinances may vary across different jurisdictions, even within the same county and some localities require a vehicle decal through local business licensing authorities to identify trained professionals. Is there an ap for that yet? Not at the present; it’s best to check with your local Extension office concerning local ordinances to be aware of the requirements in an area.


Limited Commercial Wildlife Management Certification
What former vegetarian would not appreciate the desire to trap rather than kill rats or mice in structures, but did you know a license is required to do that commercially? The Limited Commercial Wildlife Management Certification was recently established for that purpose. The license is also encouraged, although not required, for those trapping nuisance wildlife such as raccoons and skunks. If you consider expanding your certification to include these services, note that wildlife protection laws significantly limit which animals may be trapped or moved and regulate the allowable practices involved. Most birds are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty, including the cedar wax wing, so loved by many blueberry growers. Also note that in order to exterminate mice or rats in structures, a Pest Control Operator’s license is required in the General Household Pest category.


Bee Updates
You may be familiar with discussions of two issues related to bees in the state of Florida in recent months. Both a license for removal and measures to protect hives placed in citrus groves have created much buzz as of late.

Registered Beekeepers May Remove Bees From Structures Using Non-lethal Methods
Chapter 5E-14.151 of the Florida Administrative Code was adopted in July 2013. After much discussion, it was determined that a license to remove bees will not be required by beekeepers that register with FDACS. In order to become registered for the honeybee removal list, the beekeepers must first be a registered beekeeper with the Division of Plant Industry and attend Africanized Honeybee Training. This does not allow beekeepers to exterminate hives or use products classified as a “pesticide or economic poison” as defined by Florida Statue 482.021(23), however, soapy water, foam and other materials outlined in Chapter 5E-14.151 may be used.

Move Bees To Safer Ground
In 2013, several meetings concerning the protection of honeybees placed in citrus groves were conducted. Beekeepers reported significant losses among their hives in citrus groves, and discussions concerning the compatibility of the use of pesticides to combat citrus greening with beekeeping in groves became a controversial issue. Developments of new or clarified label statements are still pending from EPA to address this specific discussion, however EPA has recently developed a new label bee advisory box and guidance for protection of pollinators. FDACS is developing an online map of coordinated citrus management plans to be layered with hive locations, as reported by beekeepers. They have also prepared guidelines to help improve communication between the parties based on the results of the meetings.

Contact your local FDACS Apiary Inspector to be added to email notification lists being created to help provide advanced notice of pesticide applications in citrus. The intent is to provide at least 48 hours of notice to beekeepers within a three mile block of a planned treatment area to allow time for hives to be relocated. Maps in development will also offer alternative bee forage locations.


Global Harmonization System (GHS) For Hazard Communication
Reviewing recently published CEU articles in this publication, it appears this subject has been covered quite thoroughly, yet many applicators remain unaware of coming changes to pesticide labels and Safety Data Sheets. In fact, the changes to the basic information provided in what were formerly known as MSDS, Material Safety Data Sheets, and now called Safety Data Sheets, SDS, are few and mostly relate to formatting. Consistent formatting and the use of pictograms will make it easier for applicators to locate and understand the risks of chemicals including pesticides. Employers were required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to provide training on the changes prior to Dec. 1, 2013. The OSHA training requirement applies to not only applicators of pesticides, but to any of those employees who have any potential of exposure to any hazardous substance.

Worth noting in the changes is the use of the signal word, “Caution,” will be discontinued. Future product labels will list only one of two signal words, “Warning or “Danger”. Some products will no longer carry a signal word because they do not meet the risk criteria designated for a “Warning” signal word. The criteria used to determine the threshold between signal word designations may also change as Global Harmonization Standard and Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, FIFRA, Lethal Dose 50 (LD50) standards for the designations are currently inconsistent. For example a product with an oral LD50 of 550 mg/kg under FIFRA would constitute a “Caution” signal word, but a “Warning” signal word under GHS.

Useful resources from OSHA concerning these changes include the following publications: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3636.pdf