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UF/IFAS and FDACS Create New Online Certification Testing System

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The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has teamed with state agriculture officials to create a new, more convenient testing system for those seeking pesticide applicator licenses.

| January 17, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has teamed with state agriculture officials to create a new, more convenient testing system for those seeking pesticide applicator licenses.

Fred Fishel, a UF/IFAS agronomy professor who specializes in pesticides, said in the past, testing and certifying applicants could take several weeks and relied on documents being mailed back and forth between county Extension offices and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Tallahassee.

But the agencies recently unveiled a new, much quicker web-based system. With it, applicants can go online to schedule a time and date to take an online test administered at UF/IFAS Extension offices in three Florida counties: Hendry, Palm Beach and Duval.

The online testing system is scheduled to be expanded in the near future to include about 10 to 12 counties, meaning applicants won’t have to travel as far to reach a test site, he said.

The web-based system links FDACS and UF/IFAS Extension offices electronically, making the testing system unique from other states that have already implemented computer-based testing systems, Fishel said. Other states using computer-based systems rely upon software, rather than an electronic connectivity between organizations.

“We’re kind of a pioneer in this, because there are no other states with a web-based system that I know of,” he said.

Those who handle pesticides and must be licensed include pest control professionals, private agriculture workers, aerial applicators, foresters, lawn care professionals and more. Those licenses have been mandated by the federal government since the 1970s.

Some 6,000 exams are administered to agricultural pesticide applicators each year by UF/IFAS county Extension offices, Fishel said, and as many as 1,500 more to “structural” applicators, who go into homes, schools and other buildings to apply pesticides.

Weldon Collier, program planning coordinator for FDACS’ division of agricultural environmental services, said there are times when an applicant needs a license quickly in order to secure a job.

“This is a much more automated system and it allows us to expedite the process for them,” Collier said. “If somebody needs to get a license quickly, hopefully this system will afford them that opportunity.”

The tests cover about 20 categories; the questions range from fairly general to specific, including some that require applicants to employ mathematical formulas to arrive at the correct answer.

On rare occasions in the past, Fishel said, someone would walk into a UF/IFAS county Extension office, grab a test and flee. That meant the test had to be thrown out, and Fishel would have to spend time creating a new one.

With the new system, applicants must first obtain a voucher number from the FDACS website. The voucher number is specifically assigned to the individual who will take the exam. The applicant then uses the voucher number to schedule the exam at a UF/IFAS county Extension office offering the service. The applicant must provide a valid state-issued driver’s license or ID card along with the voucher number, which should eliminate security breaches, he said.

Applicants take the tests on laptop computers programmed with the test and nothing else, so test-takers have no option to surf the web looking for answers.

To access the state’s licensing website, visit https://aesecomm.freshfromflorida.com.
 

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