By Harry Brook
Today, everything and everyone requires certification for tasks that were previously considered an exercise in common sense. Since there is precious little of that left, there has been a move to regulate a lot of activities. One that has been around for about 30 years is the Farmer Pesticide Certificate program.
The Farmer Pesticide Certificate program started way back in 1990. It was intended to provide a basic knowledge of pesticide use and application procedures to producers. In part, it was to address issues like safe use of pesticides, proper application and procedures and equipment. It also allowed producers who passed the course to access a restricted herbicide to use on problem perennial weeds and access to a grain fumigant, for stored grain pests. In Ontario, a similar program became mandatory for farmers to allow them to use any pesticide.
The course was changed in 2008 to a renewable, five-year term, whereas there was no end date or expiry on the old certificates. Also, the course was adjusted to reflect changes to the various categories. It now consists of a seven-module general course and two, separate modules, one for using phostoxin to control grain beetles in stored grain, the other, to use phostoxin for control of Richardson ground squirrels. There are exams for each part of the course.
The main course covers things such as pesticides and their definition, poisoning and first aid, safe handling, environmental safety, integrated pest management, food safety and legislation, and pesticide equipment and calibration. Kind of like a pesticide applicator's license, but light, with less content.
It must be taught by a certified instructor and the exam must be written in front of a proctor. All the instructors are proctors as well. Once passed, the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is notified and they issue the certificates. The Ag-Info Centre retains the database of all current certificates and issues new ones.
The exams for the certificate can be challenged, as all the information and modules of the course are online, but the exam has to be done in person, with a proctor. Renewal of the general course only requires attendance to the core course presentation, but the two phostoxin use modules do require the exam be written again.
Some producer groups are using the core course as a requirement to demonstrate due diligence for using pesticides. It is part of their quality assurance program. This use of the certification program is being driven by the producer groups themselves. They include the greenhouse growers and potato growers.
The course provides useful information and can prove to the public that producers are responsible users of pest control products. As we move towards the expiry of the registration for strychnine, maybe it is time to look at getting your certification for using phostoxin to control the Richardson ground squirrels. Regardless, having the certification does provide proof to the consuming public that farmers are very safety conscious and responsible in using the pesticide tools available to them. It is a good news story!