Government Affairs: EPA overhauls pesticide applicator rules

October 8, 2015 -  By

logo: environmental protection agency

If it seems to you that there have been a lot of new regulations coming from the federal government lately, you’d be right. The Obama administration, knowing its days are numbered, has been proposing and pushing through an unprecedented number of new rules.

New Waters of the U.S. regulations, increasing the salary limit for non-exempt employees, new rules for applying pesticides that could affect pollinators and new worker protection standards are just four of the recent regs that could affect landscape contractors.

One of the latest regulatory changes proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a sweeping overhaul of the pesticide certification program. Professionals who apply pesticides for hire in the U.S. must be certified or work under the direct supervision of someone who is certified. This new regulation, proposed on Aug. 5 will have a direct impact on landscape contractors.

While state governments administer the pesticide certification programs, those state programs are governed by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act administered by EPA. State pesticide certification programs operate under delegation agreements with EPA and can be no less stringent than federal law and regulations. Any changes in the EPA pesticide certification regulations flow through to the state pesticide certification programs.

Here’s a summary of four of the proposed changes.

1. Certified applicators

  • Instate competency standards for private applications, like commercial applicators have.
  • Establish new certification categories for certain application methods (soil fumigation, non-soil fumigation and aerial application) for private and commercial applicators.
  • Establish a mandatory three-year certification period for private and commercial applicators and minimum requirements for recertification programs (continuing education or retest).
  • Eliminate special consideration for nonreaders to be certified as private applicators.

2. Noncertified applicators working under the direct supervision of certified applicators

  • Require pesticide safety training for noncertified applicators using restricted use products (RUPs), similar to the training for handlers under the worker protection standard (safety, proper pesticide application techniques, responding to spills, protecting oneself, others and the environment).
  • Require the supervising applicator to provide specific instructions related to application and ensure that the noncertified applicator has a copy of the labeling at the time of application.
  • Require supervising certified applicator to provide means for immediate communication with noncertified applicator.

3. Minimum age

  • Require people using RUPs to be at least 18 years old (private applicators, commercial applicators and noncertified applicators).

4. Program administration

  • Require candidates for certification and recertification to present identification.
  • Require certification exams to be closed book and proctored.
  • Require dealers of RUPs to maintain records of sales.
  • Require specific information on the credential (license) issued to a certified applicator.

Download a more detailed summary of the new rule or the full rule.

Submit comments to EPA on the new pesticide certification rule. The deadline for submitting comments is midnight Nov. 23.


About the Author:

Gregg Robertson, Landscape Management's government relations blogger, is a government relations consultant for the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA) and president of Conewago Ventures. From 2002 until May 2013 he served as president of PLNA. Reach him at

1 Comment on "Government Affairs: EPA overhauls pesticide applicator rules"

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  1. Tom Delaney says:

    You can just forget everywhere it says RPU for commercial applicators. States will not make two programs so it does not matter if you use RUP’s or not you will have to meet the new requirements when you use any pesticide for hire. NALP hopes to get some changes but we do not expect states to change that part. If you have state certifications good for more than 3 years as some states have 5 years and if the new rules hold up you will only have 3 years before you must be re-certified and probably will have to get more re-certification hours too.