California agricultural pest control advisers (PCAs) should sharpen their memory skills since they'll have a new PCA license number to memorize starting with license renewals in 2008.

New database software at the California Department of Pesticide (DPR) will convert current five-digit PCA license numbers to six digits for licenses expiring on Dec. 31, 2008 and thereafter. Licenses with the Dec. 31, 2007 expiration date will retain the current number until the next renewal date.

For PCAs with last names beginning with the letters A to L, licenses expire on Dec. 31 of even number years. Licenses starting with last names of M to Z expire on Dec. 31 of odd number years. Licenses are good for two years.

“Our 10-year old database was not allowing the department to create the reports it needed so that's why the database is changing,” said Cynthia Ray, program tech with DPR's licensing and certification unit. Ray spoke to 1,100 PCAs attending the 34th annual California Association of Pest Control Advisers' (CAPCA) annual conference and Agri-Expo in late October in Reno, NV.

“We were hoping that PCAs could keep their existing individual and business license numbers but that will not be the case,” Ray said. “I know this will not make everybody happy and we are very sympathetic. We realize the PCA industry — individuals, CAPCA, and the Pesticide Applicators Professional Association — will be affected and not just us.”

Ray, who has served in the DPR licensing unit for 25 years, outlined other department changes coming down the pike for PCAs, including more flexible minimum qualifications to take effect in 2008.

Previous changes in DPR minimum requirements (MQs) resulted in some advisers having difficulty gaining enough units in physical and biological sciences, crop health, pest management, and production systems. The DPR's agricultural pest control advisory committee drafted the plan to help PCAs achieve the new MQs.

“Under the new DPR plan, the 45-semester units would be reduced to 42. Work experience, non-traditional classes, internships, and senior classes would be accepted for three core areas — production, crop health, and pest management,” Ray said. “Hopefully this will help the individuals who were not quite meeting the MQs.”

Currently, PCAs can qualify for a license two ways. One method is a bachelor of arts or science degree in agricultural sciences, biological science, or pest management. Forty-five semester units or 67.5-quarter units are required in four core areas — physical/biological sciences, crop health, pest management, and production. A minimum 2.0 grade-point-average (GPA) is required in all core courses.

The second way is minus a degree but with 45 semester units in the core requirements plus 24-months of technical experience. A minimum 2.0 GPA is required.

DPR is also readying a new fumigation license geared for qualified applicator license and certificate holders. Study materials should be available by fall 2008. PCAs, private applicators, dealers, and pilots are not impacted by the new license.

PCAs whose licenses expire on Dec. 31, 2007 should have received a DPR renewal packet by now. The packets include a renewal application and instructions, fact sheet, minimum education requirements, study materials, exam schedule, a renewal reminder bookmark, and a list of frequently asked questions.

Clark said confusion exists over the dollar amount PCAs owe for the Dec. 31, 2007 license renewal. On the renewal application, two columns exist — $140 (if the license renewal is postmarked by Dec. 31, 2007) — and the other is for a late fee of $70 (payments postmarked after Dec. 31) in addition to the $140 fee for a total of $210.

Of the 200 license renewal requests Ray recently received, about half of those paid an incorrect amount. On average, about 25 percent of PCAs are paying the wrong amount.

“Those submitting the incorrect amount are paying the late renewal fee of $70,” Ray said. “The correct fee is the first one listed on the form, $140, if postmarked by Dec. 31, 2007. I'm pretty good at catching incorrect payments so please make sure you send in the correct amount.”

Signing and dating the renewal is required since the form is DPR's legal renewal document. If not signed, DPR sends a problem letter to the PCA and the signature and date must be sent.

Ray encouraged PCAs to review the ‘frequently asked questions’ information in the packet. The number one asked question asked is, “If I have excessive hours in my laws and regulations, can I use them toward my total number of hours?” The answer is yes.

“Anything approved by DPR for continuing education hours can be used toward the total number of hours, including aerial hours. It's a minimum of four hours of laws and regulations,” Ray said.

Thirty days is the general turnaround for DPR license renewal processing this fall, longer than in recent years due to the learning curve with the new database. The key is postmarking the payment by Dec. 31 to avoid the late penalty fee. Meanwhile, the turnaround for business licenses is about 45 days.

“DPR will not renew a business license until the qualified person has been renewed,” Ray said. “It's best to submit the individual renewal before the business renewal.”

While DPR accepts credit card payments, the 2007 renewal packet lacks the credit card payment sheet. PCAs can download the VISA/Master Card payment form online from the DPR website.

Ray reminded CAPCA PCAs that no grace period exists for license renewal.

“If you don't have your continuing education hours by Dec. 31 of the year the license will expire, there is no grace period. Your license will not be active. You cannot work until you get it updated,” Ray said.

CAPCA represents more than 75 percent of the nearly 4,200 California EPA licensed PCAs who provide pest management consultation for the production of food, fiber, and ornamentals in California.