Shasta College offers much-needed agriculture program


REDDING, Calif. - An agriculture program at Shasta College is seeing a need and addressing it.

It is called the Pest Control Adviser Preparation Program and it is giving students a direct line into the field.

"Agriculture is a billion dollar industry in California," said the program's lead instructor Leimone Waite.

If farmers do not own the land, and many of them do not, they have a Pest Control Adviser write them what Waite called "a prescription" to treat any pest problems on the crop. Only licensed Pest Control Advisers can perform this task. They also will offer recommendations regarding things like pest management materials, land preparation, fertilization, cultivating and harvesting.

Shasta College launched the program in the spring to get students licensed for the job.

Waite said the field used to require a bachelor's or doctorate degree in a specific plant science area. Those requirements changed when the state was seeing fewer people entering the field of work.

"California continually puts more regulations on farming and just pesticide use in general. So it keeps increasing the need for PCAs," Waite said. "So it's sort of not only where you having an increased need, we're also having a decrease in actual people that employed in the field."

Even the students involved in the program are seeing these results.

"It is in need, because a lot of elder gentlemen are currently in the field for PCAs," said student Lindee Jones. "It's an in demand job."

According to a campus release, the program requires a completed 42 semester units of core courses that include 12 units of physical, biological and natural sciences; nine units of crop health, six units of pest management systems, six units of agriculture production systems and another nine units of elective agriculture courses.

Waite said the program also requires two years of experience in the pesticide industry, and then the applicant will be able to take the exam.

According to the California Association of Pest Control Advisors, 40 percent of California's 4,000 Pest Control Advisers will retire by 2015. That will create an immediate need for 1,600 new Pest Control Advisers to serve more than 80,000 farms in the state.

Waite said licensed Pest Control Advisers are earning salaries ranging from $60,000 to more than $100,000 annually.