Get your fertilizer certification before spring

Fertilizer application

SALEM, Ohio — By now, you should be familiar with the Ohio fertilizer certification program. Since the end of September 2017, farmers who apply fertilizer to more than 50 acres in Ohio have been required to be state-certified and to date, 17,461 people are certified.

The requirement is part of a law passed in 2014, aimed at improving water quality across the state by educating farmers on proper handling of ag nutrients. In case you still need to get certified or still have questions, here are some basic answers and resources on where you can go to find an upcoming training, or additional information.
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Q. What fertilizer is included in the certification?
A. Fertilizer is any substance containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, or other plant nutrient in a dry or liquid formulation. All application types (broadcast, side-dress, sub-surface, knifing, etc.) are included in the certification requirement. The only exemption is start-up fertilizers that are applied through a planter. For this rule, lime and limestone are not considered fertilizers.
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Q. Is manure considered a fertilizer?
A. Manure was not part of the initial regulation, since it was specifically addressed by existing laws. Large livestock farms are regulated through the state’s environmental permitting program, and smaller farms are regulated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and are subject to the ag pollution abatement laws.
However, the Ohio Department of Agriculture later clarified that if a farmer purchased composted manure, such as poultry, and then applied it to a field, it would be considered a fertilizer, requiring certification.
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Q. Who has to be certified? Do all my employees have to be certified?
A. Anybody who applies commercial fertilizer to 50 or more acres must be certified. The law also allows for an uncertified person to apply fertilizer if they are under the direct supervision of a person who is certified.
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Q. How do I get certified?
A. There are three steps in the certification process. You must fill out an application form, pay an application fee, and attend a training session.
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Q. How often do I have to renew my certification?
A. All certifications will be valid for three years.
The recertification procedure will be the same as the initial certification procedure. For re-certification, the farmer must either pass a fertilizer exam or take a one-hour class.
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Q. If I hire someone else to apply my fertilizer, do I still have to be certified?
A. No. However, the person hired to apply fertilizer must be certified or under the direct supervision of someone who is certified.
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Q. What happens if I don’t get certified?
A. Applying commercial fertilizer without a certification could result in fines and/or being charged with a misdemeanor offense. The ag department will conduct random record audits.
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Q. How much does the certification cost?
A. The initial application fee for fertilizer certification is the same as the pesticide license fee of $30. A person who already has a valid commercial or private applicator license will not be required to pay the application fee.
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Q. Where can I go to learn more, including upcoming certification training events?
A. You can learn more on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website, and you can find upcoming training events in your area by clicking on “Fertilizer Certification Training” on the left. The website is:
And you can learn more on Ohio State University Extension’s website, For a direct link to upcoming training events, visit


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