Oops. It's March and that pesticide applicator's license you've been meaning to renew just expired. Options?

Just one, actually. To stay within the law, if you apply a restricted-use or state-limited use pesticide, you must have a current pesticide applicator license in Texas and most other states. (Regulations may vary somewhat from state to state, however.)

“There is no grace period on license renewal,” says Mendy Shugart, an inspector with the Texas Department of Agriculture's Lubbock office.

“You can't just come in and take a test at any time and renew the license.”

There are recourses, however. TDA offers tests in Austin and at regional offices monthly. Applicators also may earn recertification credits by attending a TDA credited course or by applying for an out-of-state course sponsored by an institution of higher learning, national association, federal government or a course given for college credit toward a degree.

Course sponsors must provide attendees with a certificate of completion, which pesticide applicators must maintain.

Shugart explained the sometimes confusing licensing process during the recent Southwest Crops Production Conference and Expo (which qualified for 4 continuing education units, 4.5 for Crop Consultants Association credit) at Lubbock.

“Applicators need to earn the required number of continuing education units (CEUs) and send them into TDA,” Shugart said.

Late fees may apply for lapsed licenses. “If the delay is from 1 to 180 days, the late fee is 50 percent of the license fee. If the delay is 180 days or more, the full license fee will be charged.”

Shugart says private applicator's license fees are $50 and are good for five years. A certificate is available for no fee.

“With a certificate, an applicator may apply restricted-use or state limited-use pesticides but may not directly supervise employees in applying those materials. Also, a certificate holder may not train other employees.

“With a license, applicators may train employees on worker protection standards,” Shugart says.

Private applicators need 15 CEUs every five years to stay current. Two of those units must be in integrated pest management and two in laws and regulations.

Commercial applicators pay a $150 fee and must earn five CEUs per year, including at least one each in two of the following categories: laws and regulations, integrated pest management or drift minimization.

Commercial applicators apply pesticides for hire on the land of another. A non-commercial license is available for applicators employed by government agencies and applicators who apply pesticides on their employers' property but who do not qualify as a private or commercial applicator.

Fee for a non-commercial license is $100 annually — $10 if the applicator is an employee of a political subdivision of the State of Texas or a federal agency operating in Texas.

“Commercial applicators also must meet financial responsibility criteria,” Shugart said.

She also recommended that employers check employee's green card status on worker protection standards. “Green cards are good for five years and some may be expired,” she said.

Farmers and other private and commercial applicators also should be aware of changing labels as they prepare for a new crop year.

A number of products have new labels with restrictions or exclusions different from last year, she said. “Pay attention to the labels.”

She also noted that anyone applying a Section 18 pesticide must have in possession a copy of the Section 18 exemption.

“These are available on the TDA website, www.agr.state.tx.us. Pesticide applicators can access this site for other information about licenses and regulations,” Shugart said.