COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio State University Extension program, created in the 1970s to promote public safety and a cleaner environment, has had an unexpected purpose in recent times: It has become a source of economic stability for thousands of Ohioans.
OSU Extension's Pesticide Safety Education Program offers statewide training, workshops, conferences, regulatory updates and courses to become a certified pesticide commercial applicator. It's a required designation set forth by state and federal regulations for anyone handling pesticides in a host of working environments: grounds maintenance for schools, weed control in crop fields, highway right-of-way maintenance, mosquito control in cities, and bedbug control in housing, among other environments.
Joanne Kick-Raack, state coordinator of the OSU Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program, said being a certified pesticide commercial applicator is a job that is generally out of the public eye, but is important for maintaining public safety and protecting the environment.
"Pesticides are a useful tool, and their use is critical to a lot of industries and in public health, but there is a need to use them responsibly in a way that minimizes any potential harmful effects to humans and the environment," said Kick-Raack. "The Pesticide Safety Education Program is a risk-mitigation program that teaches people how to manage pesticides effectively while utilizing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques. It's not pro-pesticide or anti-pesticide. It's a responsible-use program."
It's also a program that many see as necessary for securing stable employment during the current economic turmoil.
"We haven't seen a reduction in numbers of folks signing up to participate in workshops or training. People see the certification or recertification process as a necessity to finding employment or to stay employed," said Kick-Raack.
She added that because of the state of Ohio's economy, many companies or industries that would normally provide their own training are cutting back on those resources. The OSU Extension Pesticide Education Program is stepping up and filling that need.
"We try to provide very cost-effective programs for small businesses and public agencies. Even in times of low budgets they can be assured that their employees are aware of safety practices, regulations and up-to-date technology," said Kick-Raack.
Kick-Raack said that the program is involved with the training of approximately 30,000 licensed commercial and private pesticide applicators in Ohio.
"For many folks, this program is the main source of professional continuing education for their jobs. Our clients are really hard-working, everyday people who are concerned about losing their license. If you don't have a license, you don't have a job, or you can't get promoted in your job."
For more information on the OSU Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program and the resources it offers, log on to http://pested.osu.edu or call (614) 292-4070.
The Pesticide Safety Education Program is just one of countless OSU Extension offerings that provide measurable benefits to Ohioans. In an independent study, the Battelle Institute found OSU Extension is "purposely designed to produce positive economic and social impacts for the state of Ohio" and that it is a "generator of positive economic impacts." For example, every 1 percent increase in agricultural output through Extension programming brings $149 million in output to Ohio and $29 million in income for Ohioans.