CTAG Progress Report - January 2003

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Introduction to the Certification & Training Program

Protecting the public and the environment through the safe and effective use of pesticides is the underlying purpose of the pesticide applicator certification and training (C&T) program. With the 1972 amendments to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was given the authority to restrict the use of pesticides to only certified applicators (or persons under their supervision). The determination of competency was delegated to pesticide state lead agencies (SLAs). Pesticide applicator training was delegated primarily to state cooperative extension service (CES) and is also performed by other entities.

There are approximately 1.2 million applicators in the U.S. who have received certification to use Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) on farms by air and ground equipment, in greenhouses, nurseries, golf courses, industrial plants, food production facilities, hospitals, homes, restaurants, businesses ‑‑‑ just to name a few. Additionally, many states require certification to use General Use or Unclassified pesticides in specialized areas. Since the early 1970s, the reality of the national C&T program has evolved to address such issues as: the need for specialized chemical‑specific training, the protection of sensitive populations, increased public concern over pesticide use, agricultural/urban interface, a growing Spanish‑speaking applicator workforce and pesticide use in schools.

The Certification & Training Assessment Group


The Certification & Training Assessment Group (CTAG) is a consortium of professionals to promote the safe and effective use of pesticides through education, testing and licensing, and enforcement. CTAG was formed in 1997 based on a request by the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators (AAPSE) to undertake an in‑depth study of the pesticide applicator C&T program. The mission of the group was to look at where the program had been, where it should go, determine the needs, develop a consensus for change and explore changes.

The original CTAG consisted of a body of directors and four teams in the following program areas: content, infrastructure and delivery, evaluation and funding. After collecting information from SLA and CES on their programs, each team developed goals and recommendations in each area. The goals were: 1) reduce the risks to the public from pesticide use; 2) provide high quality pesticide education and safety training programs; 3) maintain the consistency, integrity and validity of the certification and recertification programs and processes; 4) ensure that adequate and equitable funding is available to pesticide safety education, training and certification programs and 5) improve the efficiency of program organization and operations. 

A January 1999 draft report entitled "Pesticide Safety for the 21st Century - The Findings and Proposals of the Certification & Training Assessment Group" was distributed for stakeholder review and comment. Comments were received from SLA certification managers, CES pesticide applicator training coordinators, state pest control associations, private training companies, state farm bureaus, state agri‑business associations, chemical companies, agricultural retailers, agricultural aviators, railroad companies, nurseries, state berry growers, and Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). Proposals were also discussed during the 1999 National Pesticide Applicator Training and Certification Workshop, a 1999 Pesticide Regulatory Education Program (PREP) course, and AAPCO/SFIREG and AAPSE meetings. 

CTAG Board of Directors

CTAG is managed by a Board of Directors which draws its membership from representatives of EPA, USDA, SLA, CES, AFPMB and TPPC. Board members, including chairs and vice chairs, serve overlapping two and three year terms. It was also determined that CTAG workgroups would be established by the Board, as needed, to work on specific tasks. A CTAG charter was developed to formalize the roles and responsibilities of the CTAG Board. The Board will determine the current status and future direction of the program, create and coordinate workgroups, provide updates on accomplishments, and maintain a communications network with partners.

Three workgroups have been formed to focus activities on specific projects.

For more information, refer to the CTAG web page


Activities and Accomplishments During 2002


Core Exam Development


EPA and Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) are collaborating on a pesticide applicator core exam project. Field testing of two forms of the exam was completed in 2002.  A total of 261 pesticide applicator candidates in both the U.S. and Canada participated in field-testing.  Results of the field-testing showed the exam forms to be very reliable in allowing a candidate to express his or her true ability. The core exam committee conducted a passing point (or cut-score) study which resulted in the determination that 70% will be the passing score for both exam forms. Several states and provinces have volunteered to participate in the pilot phase of the project and use the two exam forms as a credentialing tool in their respective states and provinces.  Data will be collected on the performance of each test item, and on the exams as a whole. This will allow the committee to "fine tune" the two exam forms prior to national use of the exam.  The pilot phase may also help recognize subject areas that need more emphasis during educational programs as well as provide information about differences between various test administration methods (e.g. paper and pencil, Local Area Network computer, remote testing via the Internet.)


Core Manual Development


The core manual project, which is a companion to the core exam project, will result in a national pesticide applicator study manual to prepare candidates for the national core exam. Draft chapters have been developed. A group led by Win Hock/PA and including Ed Crow/MD, Colleen Hudak/NC, Bob McKenna/AFPMB, Carolyn Randall/MI and Jeanne Heying/EPA met to review the draft chapters and plan the next steps which are expected to result in a draft national core manual in April, 2003. A completed national core manual is slated for late 2003. 




CTAG Presentations


CTAG Board of Directors Co-Chairs Kevin Keaney and Gina Davis made numerous presentations to AAPCO and SFIREG to provide updates on CTAG activities and to discuss progress on CTAG projects. Additional presentations were made by CTAG Board of Directors members to the Western Regional Pesticide Meeting, North Central Pesticide Meeting, Northeast regional Pesticide Meeting and the Canadian Workgroup on Pesticide Education, Certification and Training.


Web Site on Educational Resources


The web site for resource sharing among educators and regulators developed in 2001 by Carol Ramsay/WA ( http://pep.wsu.edu/psp) has continued to grow. The web site includes many resources available to professional applicators regarding certification and training, as well as resources for home and garden pesticide users. Pesticide educators and regulators are asked to keep the web site current by continuously entering information on resources developed. If you qualify and don't already have a login password, contact Jeanne Heying at EPA (heying.jeanne@epa.gov).


USDA Efforts:


The Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP) is developing an annual report for the 2002 federal fiscal year which will feature a summary of training activities as well as highlight the Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington State PSEP programs. The annual report is expected to be available in March, 2003.


A committee was formed by USDA to improve the Performance Planning and Reporting System (PPRS) and clarify its objectives. PPRS is a web‑based reporting system for the PSEP coordinators. In 2002, PPRS was used by each state to submit all plans of work and annual reports for the Pesticide Safety Education Program as a prerequisite to receiving annual funding. Another committee met in 2002 to address changes to the PSEP funding formula. The proposed funding formula will be presented at USDA regional meetings and the 2003 National Certification and Training Workshop.


In 2002, the PSEP program held a Spring Congressional Briefing for members of the House of Representatives and staff members which included presentations by the PSEP programs in Michigan, New Jersey and Texas. A similar briefing is scheduled to be held in 2003 for members of the Senate and their staff members.


The USDA budget for the 2003 federal fiscal year is expected to include grants of $25,000 each for the Southern Regional Pesticide Safety Education Center (PSEC) and for the Spray Table Demonstration Project.


By the end of March, 2003, the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) web site and e-mail addresses will change. The new web site address will be http://www.csrees.usda.gov. For more information, contact Monte (telephone 202‑401‑1108) or visit: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/pestmgt/psep/coverpsep.htm


WPS Train-the-Trainer Project


The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) train-the-trainer pilot workgroup has developed a train-the-trainer manual for field workers with input from workgroup members and from other training manuals. Three states have volunteered to participate in the pilot program: FL, NJ and WA. As part of the pilot, there will be nine master trainers trained in March and April, 2003, two from FL, three from NJ and four from WA. Once the master trainers are trained, they will conduct training in their respective states in mid-May to June, 2003. Each state will train 15 English speaking and 15 Spanish speaking trainers.


CTAG Activities in 2002


PREP Course


Each year EPA sponsors several Pesticide Regulatory Education Program (PREP) training courses for officials in state pesticide regulatory programs. The first PREP course in the 2002 series was a Pesticide Applicator Certification Program Workshop held at the University of California, Davis on April 28 ‑ May 1, 2002. This PREP course was presented by CTAG and its first two workgroups: the State Plan Workgroup and the Pesticide Safety Workgroup.


The C&T PREP course was divided into two separate working sessions. One session was devoted to developing an electronic reporting format for completing the state C&T plans and annual reports which are required by 40 CFR 171.7. This format will be the basis for the web reporting template. The second session concentrated on brainstorming priority issues which will facilitate providing EPA with a proposed plan for a comprehensive pesticide safety program (applicable to all persons who sell, mix, load, apply, or recommend the use of pesticides) that will demonstrate competency, mitigate risk, and improve pesticide security through appropriate education, training, and competency testing.


CTAG feels the entire PREP course was a resounding success. CTAG received in‑depth, high quality feedback on the work presented and the range of pesticide talent working on these issues continued to expand as many of the PREP course participants volunteered to continue working on one or more of these issues. The course participants represented a cross-section of the state lead agencies that will eventually use the electronic reporting template. Many constructive suggestions were offered which will both facilitate the use of the template and make the resulting state C&T plans more useful and more easily reviewed by both EPA Regions and Headquarters. Several participating States volunteered to pre‑test the electronic reporting template.


CTAG Workgroup on C&T Plans


CTAG feels there is an expressed need for States, Territories, Tribes and EPA Regional Offices to have available an electronic template, based on the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), current 40 CFR regulations and the Form 5700 annual report, for use in updating C&T Plans. Such a template would both simplify and standardize the updating and review process for Federal Agencies, States, Territories, Tribes and EPA Regional Offices. Information in the various state C&T plans will also be much more accessible and useful to EPA staff.


The CTAG State Plan Workgroup, led by Carol Ramsay/WA and Debborah Danford/TX, developed a draft template that was presented to the C&T PREP course participants. The aim of this workgroup is to determine the basic fundamental components of a C&T Plan that meet the requirements of FIFRA, determine the elements of what states are doing "above and beyond" FIFRA requirements, design a uniform national template for C&T Plans, and provide a basis for making manageable incremental changes that improve the accountability, viability and credibility of C&T Plans.


The CTAG State Plan Workgroup used input from participants in the 2002 C&T PREP Course to make final changes and develop the electronic reporting template. The goal of this workgroup is to make the web-based template available for use by all of the States and Territories by the National C&T Workshop in August, 2003.


This Workgroup also developed three white papers to address potential changes in FIFRA and grant guidance that make improvements to the C&T process.:

Each of these white papers has been presented to the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials (AAPCO) and its State's FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group (SFIREG). The first two issue papers were presented to the SFIREG Pesticide Operations and Management (POM) committee which requested that CTAG provide additional information. The additional information was accepted by POM and these two white papers will be presented to the full SFIREG in June 2003. The third white paper has been accepted by the full SFIREG and submitted to EPA for further action. These white papers have also been favorably received in meetings with stakeholders including American Farm Bureau Federation, Agricultural Retailers Association, American Nursery and Landscape Association, CropLife America, National Agricultural Aviation Association and the National Cotton Council.

CTAG Workgroup on Pesticide Safety

The CTAG Pesticide Safety Workgroup, led by Patrick O'Connor-Marer/CA and Carl Martin/AZ, is addressing some of the longer range CTAG goals. The mission of the Pesticide Safety Workgroup is to provide EPA with a new plan for a comprehensive pesticide safety program, for all persons who sell, mix, load, apply, or recommend the use of pesticides, that will demonstrate competency, mitigate risk, and improve pesticide security through appropriate education, training, and competency testing. The new plan will implement the CTAG goal to incorporate into the C&T program the certification and training requirements for WPS handlers, crop consultants, and aerial applicators. This will remove from the WPS program, and place into the C&T program, those who use or recommend the use of pesticides so that the remaining WPS program can be more tightly focused on the agricultural workers who do not handle pesticides. As a result, this will put into one place all of the national pesticide C&T regulations and serve to give pesticide handlers a well‑defined career path toward becoming a certified applicator. The Workgroup has developed a white paper proposal to integrate the pesticide handler training requirements of the WPS program into the pesticide applicator certification and training program.

The Pesticide Safety Workgroup has five Subgroups actively working on the following issues:

Each Subgroup will be releasing findings and recommendations in 2003.

CTAG Workgroup on Tiered Classification


At the C&T PREP Course, a key issue discussed by the Pesticide Safety Workgroup was the idea of developing a tiered classification system for pesticides which relates the hazard of pesticides to the training. The Pesticide Safety Workgroup and the CTAG Board of Directors decided this important issue should be developed by a new workgroup and the Workgroup on Tiered Classification was formed.


Tiered-classification of pesticides is inextricably linked with many CTAG issues including types of users, types of products, levels of certification and range of training. A tiered-classification model that tiers occupational users, product, certification and training is the type of model that CTAG would like to transform into regulatory language as part of a reshaped pesticide program.  A new pesticide product classification system, viewed from an end-use product perspective, which tiers occupational users, product, certification and training will facilitate establishment of certification, training and education requirements based upon specific product criteria.


The Tiered Classification Workgroup, led by Tim Drake/SC and Carol Ramsay/WA, is charged to develop a proposal for a pesticide product classification system which tiers the type of user, including occupational and non‑occupational users; product characteristics, including an assessment of homeland security risk and level of human or environmental toxicity or hazard; the level of pesticide education and safety training appropriate or required; certification or licensing requirements; application site characteristics; and engineering or manufacturing controls. These criteria should be combined into a matrix or scoring system that can be used to classify pesticides into the appropriate tier. The Workgroup has produced a number of draft white papers which are being reviewed by the CTAG Board of Directors. The draft white paper consider short term and long term proposals for a new classification system for pesticides; new certification requirements for commercial applicators, pesticide dealers, pesticide consultants and trained pesticide handlers; and new certification categories


Homeland Security Issues


CTAG is working with EPA to help strengthen the pesticide program and improve pesticide security. CTAG feels that properly qualified and well-trained pesticide applicators, dealers and consultants are the first line of homeland defense against the accidental or deliberate misuse of pesticides including their potential use as chemical terrorism agents.


Future Efforts


In 2003, CTAG will continue work to implement the proposals in the 1999 report, "Pesticide Safety for the 21st Century --The Findings and Proposals of the Certification & Training Assessment Group."  Work will also continue with EPA to help strengthen the pesticide program and improve pesticide security.


EPA expects to begin development in 2003 of a validated examination for aerial applicators of pesticides.


On 2003 August 11-14, 2003, the National Certification and Training Workshop will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii. Further information may be found at the workshop web site: http://www.pested.psu.edu/nationalepameeting/index.shtml

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