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Because of their toxic nature, pesticides are heavily regulated in North Carolina.  You must be certified to apply certain pesticides which are classified as “restricted use” to your own crops, and you must be licensed to apply pesticides to anyone else’s property for a fee.  There are strict guidelines concerning the use, storage and disposal of pesticides, to prevent harm to others’ health and property and the environment.



Certification – the process by which the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) recognizes a person as competent to use, or supervise the use of, restricted-use pesticides by means of successfully completing pesticide examination requirements.  Once an individual becomes certified, he/she is eligible to become either a private certified applicator, or licensed pesticide applicator (ground, aerial, or public).


Private Pesticide Applicator – Any person determined as competent by the NCDA&CS who uses or supervises the use of an RUP for the purpose of producing an agricultural commodity on property owned or rented by him or his employer.


Pesticide - Any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest, including any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.


General Use Pesticide – As determined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a pesticide that, when applied in accordance with its directions for use, will generally not cause unreasonable adverse effects to man or the environment.


Restricted Use Pesticide – As determined by the EPA, is a pesticide that, when applied in accordance with its directions for use, has a higher risk/probability to cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, or that the acute dermal or inhalation toxicity of the pesticide presents a hazard to the applicator and/or other persons.  Therefore, it must only be sold to and applied by a certified pesticide applicator, or under the direct supervision of a certified pesticide applicator.  In NC, it also includes all formulations of arsenic trioxide, and any Pesticide approved for an Emergency Exemption.  02 NCAC 9L .0318.


Spray Drift - The airborne movement of pesticides resulting from the application of pesticides such as to carry the pesticides beyond the target area.  02 NCAC 09L .1001 and 02 NCAC 09L .1401)



Legal Issues


Commercial and Private Certification and Licensing

Storage and Disposal

Spray Drift

Use Inconsistent with the Label


Applicable Law


North Carolina Pesticide Law of 1971 – NCGS Chapter 143 Article 52

Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) – 7 USC Chapter 6

Protection of Environment, EPA Pesticide Programs – 40 CFR 150 - 189

Occupational Safety and Health Act – 29 USC Chapter 15

Federal Endangered Species Act - 16 U.S.C. Chapter 35

Pesticide Section Regulations - 02 NCAC Chapter 9 Subchapter L

Federal Aviation Regulations, Agricultural Aircraft Operations - 14 CFR Part 137

Recordkeeping Program for Restricted Use Pesticides – 7 CFR Part 110


North Carolina Department of Agriculture Pesticide Information




Commercial and Private Certification and Licensing


What is the difference between a certification and a license?

A certification authorizes a person to apply or supervise the application of RUPs. (See definition of certification).  02 NCAC 09L .1102. Certification (only, i.e., without a license) is usually held by farmers or ranchers who apply or supervise the application of RUPs solely for the purpose of producing an agricultural commodity on property owned/ rented by him, or his employer. This class of certification is called a Private Pesticide Applicator and is valid for three years for a fee of $10.00.  02 NCAC 09L .1111.


A Commercial Pesticide Applicator license authorizes a person who is certified in one or more of thirteen specialty categories to apply or supervise the application of pesticides (both general and RUPs) on the properties of another for compensation.  02 NCAC 09L .0519.  This license must be renewed annually for a fee of $75.00.  02 NCAC 09L .0525.  A license is also required if you are an employee of state or local government who applies pesticides as part of your routine work, but in this circumstance there is no fee required for the license. 


What kind of license do I need if I want to…

 … use pesticides to control household pests such as termites in my home; or, what license is required of someone I wish to hire to apply pesticides in my home?

All Structural Pest Control regulations are enforced by The Structural Pest Control Section.

 … use general use pesticides in my home garden or yard?

A homeowner or grower may use “general use” pesticides on their own property without a certification or license.  N.C.G.S. § 143-460(29)(a).

  … use restricted use pesticides on my own farm?

Only a certification is required (no license) for farmers or their employees who are using or supervising the use of restricted use pesticides to produce an agricultural commodity on land that they own or lease.  02 NCAC 09L .1102.  A grower may use “general use” pesticides without a certification; however, a certification may be needed to train employees if any of your pesticide applications fall under the scope of the Worker Protection Standard. (See the difference between certification and licensing above.)

… apply pesticides on others’ property, for compensation?

A Commercial Pesticide Applicator License is required with specialized certification to apply or supervise the application of pesticides to the property of another, or provide a service that includes the application of a pesticide (see the difference between certification and licensing above).  Specialized categories include aquatic pest control, public health control, forest pest control, right-of-way pest control, agricultural pest animal control, ornamental & turf pest control, agricultural pest plant control, seed treatment, aerial application, demonstration and research, and wood treatment. 02 NCAC 09L .0505.

… apply pesticides as part of my state or local government job?

A Public Pesticide Operator license is required to apply pesticides, or supervise the application of pesticides, if that duty is in the course of your job with a state, federal, or county agency/municipality. The licensees’ certification must be in one or more of the thirteen specialized categories listed above. There are no annual licensing fees for this type of license.

…apply pesticides as part of my job with a public utilities company?

A Public Utility Pesticide Operator license is required to apply or supervise the application of pesticides if that duty is in the course of your job with a public utility. The licensees’ certification must be in one or more of the thirteen specialized categories as above. This license must be renewed annually for a fee of $75.00. 

… aerially apply pesticides?

An Aerial Applicator license is required to apply pesticides using an airplane or helicopter.  Aerial applicators are required to be certified in aerial methods and one or more of the specialty areas, with the exception of seed treatment, wood treatment, and agricultural pest-animal categories.  This license must be renewed annually for a fee of $75.00. 

... sell restricted use pesticides?

To sell, distribute, hold for sale, or make RUPs available for use to end users in NC, a Pesticide Dealer license is required; this license requires dealer certification. This license must be renewed annually for a fee of $75.00. 

… offer advice, supervision, or consultation about the use of pesticides for a fee?

A Pest Control Consultants’ License is required when technical advice or recommendations for the

use of specific pesticides for the purpose of controlling insects, plant diseases, weeds, or other pests is provided for a fee. A Consultant must also be certified in each specialty area in which he consults.  Note: a Pest Control Consultant cannot legally apply pesticides to the property of another.  An annual license fee of $75.00 is required.  To obtain this license, you must have a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. degree in a biological or agricultural science, with specific coursework relevant to the area of concentration.


What does “direct supervision” mean and how does it apply to Pesticide certification and licenses?

All individuals certified or licensed under the NC Pesticide Law are responsible for supervising all employees engaged in selling or applying pesticides.  "Direct supervision" means that the certified applicator or licensed individual must be readily available to give directions or advice, although usually he does not have to be preent at the site.  The certified/licensed individual must at least be available by phone contact.


How can I find a licensed pesticide applicator in my area?

The Pesticide Section’s search engine is very user friendly. You can search by county, category and/or license type.


Storage, Disposal, and Container Recycling


How should I store pesticides?

As a general rule, store pesticides in the manufacturer’s original labeled container(s) and according to the label on the container.  All other products, including non-pesticide products stored in the same storage area, must also be labeled.  Pesticides should be stored in dry, ventilated areas that are free of combustible materials and ignition sources and other fire hazards. 02 NCAC 09L .1902.

If a label is separated from the original container, the following information must be displayed on the container: (1) the common chemical name, (2) the percentage of each active ingredient, (3) the EPA registration number, (4) the signal word, and (5) its use classification (general or restricted use).  Pesticides must not be stored in any food, feed, beverage, or medicine container that has previously been used for that purpose or that is specifically designed to contain that product.  Pesticides also must not be stored in a way that could cause contamination of foods, feeds, beverages, eating utensils, tobacco, tobacco products, other pesticides, seeds, or fertilizers, or otherwise likely to result in accidental ingestion by humans or domestic animals.  02 NCAC 09L .1902.


 Secondary Containment for Agricultural Pesticides

Certain distributors, refilling establishments, custom blenders, and commercial applicators who utilize bulk storage (containers in excess of 500 gallons) to store agricultural use products fall under the scope of Standards for Pesticide Containment Structures.  This regulation and other information may be found at the following links:  (Note: this website outlines the entire rule. See Table 7 for information regarding Containment Structures)


May I dispose of pesticides in sanitary landfills?

No.  It is illegal to dispose of hazardous waste (including pesticides) in sanitary landfills. 


Can I receive assistance with disposing of pesticides?

Yes.  The NCDA&CS Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program collects obsolete, banned, unwanted or unusable pesticides at designated collection sites on Pesticide Collection Days (about 40/year) and at certain Household Hazardous Waste events across the state.

For dates and other specific information, you can visit the following link: .  You can also contact your county cooperative extension service or call the NCDA&CS Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program at (919) 733-3556.


How should I dispose of pesticides and empty pesticide containers?

Pesticides may be disposed of according to the label on the original container.  Pesticide containers should be triple-rinsed and offered for recycling, if available, or disposed of according to the label. Prohibited disposal procedures for any pesticide or pesticide container includes open dumping, open burning, burying, water dumping, ocean dumping, and any violation of disposal requirements on the pesticide product labeling. 02 NCAC 09L .0604


Are there plastic pesticide container recycling sites for farmers and commercial applicators?

Yes, there are; however, not all counties have this type of designated pesticide container recycling. Visit the Pesticide Section website to see if your county offers this special program.

Pesticide containers should be recycled separately from other plastics. Recycling companies do not want pesticide containers mixed in with household plastic containers. If you don’t have access to sites for pesticide container recycling, empty containers should be properly rinsed and sent to a landfill.


Is it illegal to dispose of plastic pesticide containers in a landfill?

No.  Rigid plastic pesticide containers may be disposed in landfills, as long as they are empty and triple-rinsed.  N.C.G.S. § 130A-309.10(f)(11)


What are the guidelines for cleaning plastic pesticide containers before they are recycled?

The containers must be empty and triple rinsed or pressure rinsed to remove all standing residue. Staining is acceptable. Caked on residue is not. Be sure there is no residue that can be smeared or will flake off when touched with a glove. The inside of the container must be dry.


Are there any parts of a container that are not acceptable for recycling?

Caps, metal handles, and rubber linings cannot be recycled and should be disposed as normal solid waste. If a container has a label booklet, it should be removed before the container is recycled because it will interfere with the granulating of the container. 

For more information on pesticide container storage, disposal or recycling, call the NCDA&CS Pesticide Section at (919) 733-3556. 


Spray Drift


What are the rules concerning pesticide spray drift in North Carolina?

When applying a pesticide utilizing aerial or ground application equipment, there is a prohibition against applying the pesticides in such a way that drift from pesticide vapors or particles results in adverse effect.  Adverse effect is defined as personal injury, damage to personal property, damage to real property, damage to the environment, or any combination of these.  More regulations addressing ground application of pesticides may be found at 02 NCAC 09L .1401-1405.  Regulations addressing aerial application of pesticides may be found at 02 NCAC 09L .1001-1009.  This is probably best interpreted as a prohibition against off-site damage.  Failure to comply with drift regulations may result in fines and/or revocation of the violator’s applicator’s license.  See In the Matter of Before the North Carolina Pesticide Board File Nos. IR94-128, IR94-151, IR94-155, 349 N.C. 656, 509 S.E.2d 165 (1998).


Is aerial application of pesticides forbidden in any areas?

Yes.  In order to minimize potential harm from drift, no pesticide may be deposited by aircraft in the following areas:

  • within the limits of any congested area, except when permission is granted under F.A.R.-137;
  • within 300 feet of the premises of schools, hospitals, nursing homes, churches, or any building other than a residence which is used for business or social activities if either the building or the premises is occupied by people;
  • on the right-of-way of a public road or within 25 feet of a public road, whichever is greater;
  • on any body of water, if the pesticide is toxic to aquatic life and the target is not an aquatic pest;
  • within 100 feet of any residence; or
  • on any nontarget area in such a manner that it is more likely than not that adverse effect will occur.

02 NCAC 09L .1005.


Who should I contact when I believe my property has been affected by spray drift?

Contact the Structural Pest Control & Pesticides Division at (919) 733-3556 and speak to one of our Pesticide Specialists.

Anyone who has witnessed a pesticide misuse or who has concerns about any noncompliance of any of our regulations including certification/licensing requirements may file a complaint with the Pesticide Section.  We prefer to have contact information for the complainant so we may follow up with them after the investigation has been completed, but we do take anonymous complaints from individuals on a regular basis.  All complaints are taken very seriously and we will initiate our investigation within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.


What are the Record keeping requirements for pesticide applications?

 There are different requirements for pesticide application recordkeeping in North Carolina.  The regulations are separate regulations for restricted use pesticides that are applied by ground and aerial application.  There are also separate requirements for growers of agricultural crops for restricted use pesticides and agricultural use pesticides that fall under the scope of the Worker Protection Standards. 

A summary of all requirements may be found here.


Endangered Species


Are there pesticides that should not be used near Federally-listed endangered or threatened species?

One needs to read the pesticide product label to determine if there is a prohibition on using the pesticide within an area where a protected species is located. Also, the label may refer you to a website to determine if the county where you plan to apply a pesticide has an Endangered Species Protection Bulletin that will contain information on protecting a Federally-listed endangered or threatened species or its critical habitat. The use instructions in the bulletin are enforceable use requirements just like any use instruction on the label itself.


Is there any pesticide rule that protects a Federally-listed endangered or threatened species in North Carolina from specific pesticides?

Yes. The North Carolina Pesticide Board adopted a rule to protect the Carolina heelsplitter, a freshwater mussel species, in Union County. The rule became effective on March 1, 2010. It identifies 30 pesticides that cannot be used in pesticide use limitation areas near specific streams. For more details, click here


Animal Control


Can pesticides be used to control moles in North Carolina?

On August 6, 2014, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation that declared the eastern mole, Scalopus aquaticus, and the hairy-tailed mole, Parascalops breweri to be pests in North Carolina.  Following this declaration, the North Carolina Pesticide Board adopted a rule, with concurrence from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission,  specifying where pesticides labeled to control moles can and cannot be used.  This rule was then approved by the North Carolina Rules Review Commission, effective April 1, 2015.  As of that date, pesticides labeled to control moles can be registered for sale in North Carolina to control the two listed species of moles.
Please note that the star-nosed mole, Condylura cristata parva, has not been declared a pest in North Carolina and, therefore, cannot be controlled using pesticides.

For many years North Carolina has registered products labeled to repel moles and continues to do so.  Repellent labels can include all three species of moles found in North Carolina.

Please go to 02 NCAC 09L.0707 for additional information and restrictions regarding the use of pesticides to control moles.

Can pesticides be used to control voles in North Carolina?

Yes. The product label needs to have voles listed as a target species.


Worker Protection Standards/ Farmworker Safety


The Worker Protection Standard is a set of regulations designed to protect agricultural workers from pesticide exposure. In NC, the NCDA&CS enforces this regulation through the inclusion in the NC Pesticide Law of 1971. The rules of the standard must be followed when using an “Agricultural use Pesticide” as noted on the pesticide label for the production of agricultural plants on a farm or in a forest, nursery, or greenhouse.

People who violate the WPS may be fined and /or have their pesticide certification suspended or revoked.  For additional information, click here.


NC Agromedicine Institute


The North Carolina Agromedicine Institute conducts and promotes research, intervention, outreach and education to improve the health and safety of the agricultural community including farmers, farm workers, foresters, fishers and their families.

The Southern Coastal Agromedicine Center is an integral component of the Institute and extends the reach of the Institute’s activities through the involvement of partner states in the southeast (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia), Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The Institute’s mission is to promote the health and safety of agricultural, forestry, fishery workers, their families and their communities through research, intervention, outreach, education, and training with goals to save lives through:

  • Reducing injuries and preventing chronic diseases and health problems
  • Supporting safe and healthy working and living environments
  • Addressing health disparities
  • Increasing access to health care in rural populations
  • Educating farmers, foresters, fishers, farm workers and their families.

For additional information about NC’s Agromedicine Institute and programs, click here.


How do I contact the Environmental Protection Agency?

North Carolina along with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee are all part of EPA Region 4.  The Regional offices are responsible for the execution of the Agency's programs, Pesticide issues are addressed by the Pesticides & Toxics Substance Branch (PTSB) under the Air, Pesticides, and Toxics Management Division.  See the contact information below:


 Pesticides & Toxic Substances Branch (PTSB)

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4

61 Forsyth Street SW

Atlanta, GA 30303

General Inquiries:  (404) 562 - 4300

Fax:  (800) 562 – 8973

Jeaneanne Gettle, Branch Chief, Phone:   (404) 562 - 8979

Kimberly Bingham, Section Chief, Phone:  (404) 562 - 9038


Disclaimer: The materials available on this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site does not create an attorney-client relationship between NCDA&CS and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of NCDA&CS or any state employee.

Some links within the NC Ag Law website may lead to other sites. NCDA&CS does not incorporate any materials appearing in such linked sites by reference, and does not necessarily sponsor, endorse or otherwise approve of such linked materials.  

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