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State Agriculture Departments Look To Update Pesticide Training

State departments of agriculture want to make pesticide application training easier and keep it in-house.
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State departments of agriculture want to make pesticide application training easier and keep it in-house.

Midwest states including Missouri, Iowa and Illinois are updating the way they teach farmers to safely use pesticides, with the goals of making it easier for them to get the training and to keep the process under state control.

In Missouri, such training usually happened through in-person classes that included watching videos so old they are on VHS tapes. 

The coronavirus pandemic shut down most of the in-person pesticide training classes, across the country. 

Missouri State Agriculture Director Chris Chinn said her department is working on new materials that can be accessed online and will also be in compliance with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyrules.

“We’re really excited about that opportunity and it will be a priority for us moving forward because if we don’t get the job done in Missouri, the EPA is going to come do it for us, and none of us want to see that happen,” Chinn said in a recent virtual meeting with the Missouri Farm Bureau.

The U.S. EPA expanded the requirements for safety training, increasing the core competencies from five to 13. The federal agency will take over the responsibility for any state that isn’t in compliance. 

In most states, that will mean new programs designed by the state agriculture department that receive EPA certification, as well as the legislature codifying those new rules.

Chinn said Missouri’s new training program will also be easier for farmers.

“That means delivering them in an online format so that people can do this training whenever it’s convenient for them,” Chinn said. “You don’t have to take a day away from your farm and go sit in a classroom. This is a training you can do in the evening or on the weekend.”

The Illinois Department of Agriculture started online pesticide training in December and has already had more than 1,000 farmers complete the courses virtually.

Iowa is nearing the one-year” anniversary of the launch of an online portal where farmers could receive the training and take the applicator test.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

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Jonathan Ahl reports from Missouri for Harvest Public Media. He also is the Rolla Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. Before coming to St. Louis Public Radio in November of 2018, Jonathan was the General Manager for Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois. He previously was the News Director at Iowa Public Radio and before that at WCBU in Peoria, Illinois. Jonathan has also held reporting positions in central Illinois for public radio stations. Jonathan is originally from the Chicago area. He has a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Western Illinois University and an M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is an avid long distance runner, semi-professional saxophonist and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.