The Montana Private Applicator Training (PAT) Program is coordinated by MSU Extension through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) and MSU Extension. This agreement stipulates MSU Extension coordinates the certification and training of approximately 5,500 private applicators in Montana.

The PAT program is for individuals and/or their employees who wish to apply Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) to land they own, rent or lease for the purpose of growing an agricultural commodity. This includes privately owned farms, ranches, nurseries, and greenhouses. This does not include individuals who apply general use pesticides on land they own, rent or lease; however they may benefit from the training offered from this program. Other exceptions are noted below.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is the federal law regulating pesticide usage with two level of pesticides: general-use and restricted-use pesticides (RUPs). Pesticides are considered RUPs if they have the potential to cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment or pose a hazard to the applicator or other persons (FIFRA Sec. 3 (d) (1) c). FIFRA authorizes the EPA to require certification of applicators who want to use RUPs and gives authority to the states to administer their own certification program, with the approval of the EPA. The EPA has designated the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) as the lead agency for implementation of both commercial and private applicator training in Montana.

Competence in the use and handling of pesticides by a private applicator is determined by the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR 171).  As a minimum requirement for certification, a private applicator must show a practical knowledge of the pest problems and pest control practices associated with their agricultural operations; proper storage, use, handling and disposal of the pesticides and containers; and their related legal responsibility.

In 1983, MDA and Extension signed a memorandum-of-agreement in which the MSU Extension assists with Private Applicator Training (PAT).  In addition, all Extension personnel demonstrating, making recommendations, researching or supervising the use of pesticides, and/or conducting pesticide training are to be licensed (certified) as governmental applicators in the commercial applicator classification.  Under this agreement most county agents act as local PAT coordinators. PAT programs are developed and conducted by PAT coordinators within each county or reservation.  Sometimes, a county agent may act as the PAT coordinator for multiple counties. Where there is no county agent available, other individuals may be PAT Coordinators upon approval by the MDA. In a few cases other non-extension individuals are local PAT coordinators.  In addition, tribal extension agents also conduct PAT training often covering more than one county.

Montana is divided into five PAT regions with one of the regions reaching their recertification year annually.

Private applicators must be licensed prior to purchasing and using a pesticide designated by the Department of Agriculture as a restricted use pesticide.

To become certified for the first time, an applicator (initial applicator) has two options:

  1. Complete the 50 question open book Montana Private Applicator Certification Exam at their local extension office and pass it with a 70% or better; or
  2. Attend a 6-hour training session and take an ungraded 50 question open book 'ungraded quiz'. These 6-hour sessions must adhere to criteria set forth for initial programs.

The agent will go over the exam with individuals who answered less than 70% of the questions correctly or they will go over the correct answers to the 'ungraded quiz' after completion by the applicators.

Upon successful completion of the certification exam:

  1. The agent notes the exam score on the Application For A Farm Applicator Special Use Permit provided by the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA).
  2. The agent signs the application in the appropriate box.
  3. The agent gives the application to the applicator, who mails it and fees ($50) to the MDA or the agent collects the fee from the applicator and sends it and the permit to the MDA.
  4. The applicator will then receive a permit in the mail and will be entered into the MDA private pesticide applicator database. 

If an applicator allows their certification to lapse by not attaining 6 recertification credits prior to the January 1 deadline, and they wish to apply RUPs, they must take a closed book Montana Private Applicator Certification Exam within 12 months of their license expiring. The lapsed applicator can once again take the open book exam 12 months after their license lapses. The lapsed applicator has the option of attending a 6-hour initial certification training session and taking the 50 question open book 'ungraded quiz' at any time.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Those individuals who enter the system prior to June 30th of the 3rd year of their certification cycle must accrue 6 recertification credits before the end of the recertification cycle in order to be eligible to renew. Initial applicators who attain their license after June 30th of the 3rd year of their certification cycle will be pro-rated 3 recertification credits and would only need to accumulate 3 recertification credits in order to be eligible for renewal. Initial applicators who get their license in the last 12 months of their certification cycle will be pro-rated 6 recertification credits and would not need to accrue any credits before the end of their certification cycle. 

For example, Applicator John Doe lives in Gallatin County (Region 2). For this example, his recertification cycle is from January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2009. He takes the 50 question exam at his local extension office on May 19, 2008 (4th year of the recertification cycle).  He needs to obtain only 3 private applicator credits by the end of December 31, 2009.  On the other hand, Jane Doe, who also lives in Gallatin County, received her license on April 15, 2009 (5th year of recertification cycle).  She DOES NOT need to get any private credits to recertify. 

Initial Private Applicator Training Requirements

Once an individual has received their private pesticide license they are termed recertifying applicators. In order to be eligible to renew their private (farm) licenses for another 5 year cycle, recertifying applicators have two options:

  1. Complete the 50 question closed book Montana Private Applicator Certification Exam during the last year of their certification cycle and pass it with a 70% or better. The agent will go over the exam with individuals that answered less than 70%.
  2. Accrue 6 pesticide recertification credits over the course of the 5 year recertification cycle for their region.  The accrual of the 6 credits does not need to take place all in the recertification year but can be spread out over the 5 year period.

If an applicator allows their certification to lapse and they want to apply RUPs, they must either take a closed book Montana Private Applicator Certification Exam within the 12 months after their license expired, or attend a 6-hour initial private applicator training program and take an ungraded quiz.

Montana PAT Regions
Region 1 January   31 December



2 2015 to 2019
3 2016 to 2020
4 2017 to 2021
5 2013 to 2017

In 2017, legislative changes in the Montana Pesticide Act resulted in increased fees for the private applicator license (farm license).  The new fee for each re-certifying applicator during the five-year recertification period is $60.00. The $60.00 is distributed in the following manner: 

  • $15.00 (25%) to Montana Department of Agriculture for administration.
  • $15.00 (25%) to fund the waste pesticides and pesticide container disposal program.
  • $30.00 (50%) to Montana State University Extension Service broken down as follows:
              $5.00 (8%) to the MSU Extension Pesticide Education Program
              $25.00 (42%) to the county extension office in which the private applicator resides. This money is used to support pesticide certification and training programs conducted in those counties. 

Certification and training for  commercial, public utility, government and non-commercial applicators is coordinated by the MDA. More information on these licensing types can be found on the MDA Licensing page.

  • Commercial Applicators - Individuals who by contract or for hire, apply pesticides by aerial, ground, or hand equipment to land, plants, seed, animals, water, structures, or vehicles.
  • Public Utility Applicators - Individuals who apply pesticides to land owned or leased by a public utility.
  • Government Applicators - Individuals who apply pesticides for a city, county or state or other government agency to public land or right-of-way, or as a public service.  
  • Non-Commercial Applicators - Individuals who cannot be classified as a commercial, public utility, governmental or private pesticide applicators, but desire to apply restricted-use pesticides.