WSDA proposes improved pesticide applicator license testing; fees to increase

From Washington Friends of Farms & Forests

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is proposing to transition to a modern testing platform that will benefit pesticide license applicants and their employers. To create a new and improved testing system, they plan to increase testing fees and change how exams administered. To accomplish this, WSDA must revise state rules that set the fee structure. Public hearings to obtain feedback on the proposed rule changes will be held late this summer.

The proposal
WSDA proposes upgrading to a computer-based testing platform available through professional testing centers at more locations around the state. Many other states including Oregon, Colorado, Indiana and Arizona already provide computer-based testing for pesticide licensing through third-party vendors with great success. A computer-based testing platform will provide many advantages, such as:

  • A minimum of 13 convenient testing sites available in at least 11 counties spread across the state.
  • More testing session dates and times available. Professional testing centers and community colleges are generally open every weekday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Online registration available 24/7.
  • Test score results available immediately.
  • Testers get immediate feedback in each topic area of the exam.
  • Professional testing sites that are safe, secure, and easy to access.
  • Lower incidence of cheating or scoring errors.

The Cost
WSDA would have to contract with a third party to administer the tests.  Other states that use similar programs charge between $55 – $65 per exam. Current rules limit the Washington testing fee to $25. A modernized system would offer cost and time savings, including:

  • More testing sites available five days a week results in less waiting time between retakes.
  • More testing sites means less travel time and associated costs.
  • Instant results mean shorter waiting periods to get a license or endorsement.
  • If the result is a failed test, testers get instant feedback on what to study to increase testing success.
  • Professional testing environment with adequate space and facilities for testing, including meeting reasonable accommodation needs.

Currently, WSDA administers 33 different types of pesticide exams, all on paper. WSDA offers testing at six locations around the state. Of those, only two offer weekly sessions, with the rest monthly or variable testing schedules. Applicants must call the WSDA licensing office during regular business hours to register for an available testing session. Sessions are often full, forcing individuals to wait weeks or sometimes months to take an exam. Some testers must also drive more than two hours each way to reach an available testing site.  Applicants may have to wait up to 10 business days to get their results. Those who fail an exam must wait until they receive their results to register to retake their exam(s).

If you have any questions or comments about this rulemaking process, please contact Christina Zimmerman, Acting Program Manager, at