When farmers do have to apply pesticides, federal and state law require that they follow the pesticide label instructions.

Pesticide labels, approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, provide critical information about how to handle and safely use the pesticide and avoid harm to human health and the environment.

If farmers or applicators fail to follow the pesticide label instructions, they face strict enforcement action from state and federal agencies. In Iowa, farmers and employees who apply restricted-use pesticides (or pesticides not available to consumers at, say, a home improvement store) must undergo training to earn a pesticide applicator certification or license, explains Betsy Danielson, industry extension specialist for Integrated Pest Management at Iowa State University.

Iowa State University Extension works with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to conduct pesticide applicator training statewide.

Farmers must pass a test to become a certified pesticide applicator. To keep their certification, farmers must attend continuing education classes each year to learn about the latest science on pesticide use and safety. During the pandemic, many of these trainings have moved online.

“Many farmers have been certified for years, and they just keep going to the trainings to stay up-to-date,” Danielson says. “Farmers are knowledgeable, and they’re always trying their best.”

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