Child Labor on the Farm and Ranch - Texas Agriculture Law (2024)

Posted on March 28, 2016 by tiffany.dowell

In preparing for an upcoming presentation, I have been looking into child labor laws in agriculture. What I’ve learned is that pretty much my entire childhood was illegal! Because many farmers and ranchers do employ minors to help on weekends or over the summer, understanding child labor laws related to agriculture is extremely important.

Source of Laws

Laws related to child labor and agriculture are found at both the federal and state levels. Federally, these rules are found in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Additionally, many states also have state-level employment laws as well. In Texas, these laws are found in the Texas Labor Code, Chapter 51. Most of the Texas-specific laws closely follow along with the federal rules. Additionally, the Texas Labor Code does not apply to a child employed in agriculture during a period of time when the child is not legally required to be attending school. See Texas Labor Code 51.003. Thus, the key considerations for Texas farmers and ranchers arethe rules found in federal law.

Farmer/Rancher’s Own Children

A child of any age may be employed by his or her own parent at any time, doing any type of work, on a farm or ranch that is owned or operated by the parent. See 29 CFR 570.2(a)(2); (b). The same is true if the owner or operator of the farm or ranch is someone standing in place of the parent, such as a custodial grandparent. See id. The same is true under Texas law. See Texas Labor Code 51.003(1)(C).

Other People’s Children

Employment of another person’s child on the farm or ranch is where the rules get more complex. The applicable rules depend upon the age of the child and the nature of the tasks he or she is doing. See 29 USC 570.

  • Age 16 or 17: The child can perform any farm job, including those deemed “hazardous” by the Secretary of Labor. Further, the child may work anytime, including school hours.
  • Age 14 or 15: A child may perform only those jobs not considered to be “hazardous” by the Secretary of Labor. The child may only be employed outside of school hours.
  • Age 12 or 13: A child may only work in an agricultural operation if the child’s parent is also employed there. Work may only occur outside of school hours.
  • Children 11 or under: A child may work in an agricultural operation only if parental consent is obtained and the farm employees are exempt from the FLSA requirements. Here again, work is only permitted outside of school hours.

“Hazardous Activities”

As noted above, children under the age of 16 may not participate in activities deemed to be “hazardous” by the Secretary of Labor. The Secretary has developed a list of agricultural related activities deemed “hazardous.” See 29 USC 570.71. Many of these may surprise most farmers and ranchers. They are as follows:

  • Operating a tractor of over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement of any of its parts to or from such a tractor.
  • Operating or assisting to operate (basically including even touching) any of the following machines: corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, mobile pea viner, feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, or the unloading mechanism of a nongravity-type self-unloading wagon or trailer, power post-hole digger, power post driver, nonwalking type rotary tiller, trencher, earthmoving equipment, fork lift, potato combine, power-driven circular, band or chain saw.
  • Working on a farm in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by: a bull, boar, or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes, a sow with suckling pics or a cow with a newborn calf (umbilical cord present).
  • Felling, bucking, skidding, loading, or unloading timber more than 6″ in diameter.
  • Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of more than 20 feet.
  • Driving a bus, truck or automobile while transporting passengers.
  • Riding on a tractor as a passenger or helper.
  • Working inside a fruit, forage, or grain storage designed to retain an oxygen deficient or toxic atmosphere, a upright silo within 2 weeks of silage being added or when a top uploading device is in operating position, a manure pit, or a horizontal silo while operating a tractor for packing purposes.
  • Handling or applying (includes cleaning equipment, disposal or return of empty containers or serving as flag man) Category I chemicals, identified by the word poison and the skull and cross-bone labels or Category II chemicals, identified by the word warning on the label.
  • Handling or using a blasting agent.
  • Transferring, transporting, or applying anhydrous ammonia.

There are certain exceptions for student-learners in vocational agriculture education programs and 4-H members who have completed a tractor training program. For more details, see 29 USC 570.72.

Recordkeeping Requirements

If children are employed on a farm or ranch, certain record keeping requirements apply. See 29 USC 516.33(f). The required records include the child’s name in full, place w here the child lives during employment, date of birth, and written consent of the parent if required for employment.

Penalty for Violations

Persons who violate these rules can face serious consequences. First, monetary fines up to $11,000 per employee that is subject to a violation may be imposed. Violations found to be willful may be punished by up to an additional $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 6 months. If the violation results in death or serious injury of the child, the penalty increases to $50,000 per person and may be doubled if the violation is found to have been repeated or willful.


The good ol’ days have certainly changed when it comes to employing children on the farm or ranch. Anyone who intends to hire children under 18 should be aware of these rules and be careful to comply with the requirements.

Child Labor on the Farm and Ranch - Texas Agriculture Law (2024)


Child Labor on the Farm and Ranch - Texas Agriculture Law? ›

Ages 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time. Ages 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labor. Ages 12 and 13 may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs on farms that also employ their parent(s) or with written parental consent.

What is the child labor law in Texas? ›

It is illegal to employ a child under 14 except under specific circ*mstances. TWC or its designee may inspect a business during work hours if there is good reason to believe a child is currently employed or has been employed within the last two years. It is illegal to hinder an investigation knowingly or intentionally.

What are the facts about child labor in agriculture? ›

The nature of agricultural work exposes child laborers to many risks and dangers, many attributed to the following types of work or conditions. Every year, approximately 115 children die in an agricultural-related incident, and nearly 12,000 experience a non-fatal injury.

What two conditions must be met for a child under 12 to work on a farm? ›

Twelve is generally the minimum age for employment in agriculture. However, children under 12 can be employed in any non-hazardous agricultural job on a small farm outside of school hours with parental consent. Once children reach age 14, they may work any job on the farm that's defined as non-hazardous.

Can 14 year olds work in Texas? ›

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) a child 14 or 15 years of age may not work during school hours, may not work more than three hours on a school day or 18 hours during a school week, and may not work more than eight hours on a non-school day or 40 hours during a non-school week.

What is the youngest age to work in child labor? ›

Generally speaking, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the minimum age for employment (14 years for non-agricultural jobs), restricts the hours youth under the age of 16 may work, and prohibits youth under the age of 18 from being employed in hazardous occupations.

Is 17 a minor in Texas? ›

Once a person turns 17 in Texas, he is legally considered an adult, and any criminal charges would be handled in adult court.

Why do children work on farms? ›

Poverty, social instability, low levels of education and awareness, insufficient decent work opportunities and poor social programmes are some of the main factors that cause child labour around the world.

What are the labor issues in agriculture? ›

Farm labor issues are many and multifaceted, including productivity and food prices, immigration, health policy, union status and many social problems that accompany poverty.

What does the Fair labor Standard Act say about child labor in agriculture? ›

The FLSA provides a minimum age of 16 years for any agricultural occupations which the Secretary of Labor finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for persons under the age of 16, or detrimental to their health and well-being.

How old do you have to be to work on a farm in Texas? ›

The following information on age restrictions for youth working in agriculture was adapted from material written by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Texas Workforce Commission: Ages 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time.

What is the job of a farmer for kids? ›

A farmer is someone who grows plants and raises animals for human use. Farmers have to work very hard and long hours in order to be successful. The work of farmers is necessary for human survival.

Can you work at Chick Fil A at 14 in Texas? ›

Most Chick-fil-A locations set the minimum age requirement at 16 for their employees.

Does Walmart hire at 14 in Texas? ›

As a minimum age requirement, you must be at least 16 years old to work at Walmart and 18 at Sam's Club.

What age does McDonalds hire in Texas? ›

Part Time Crew 14 and older | McDonald's.

What is the latest a 16 year old can work? ›

What are California limitations on the hours that minors are allowed to work?
Ages 16 and 17
Spread of hours5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Until 12:30 a.m. on any evening preceding a nonschool day. WEE students, with permission, until 12:30 a.m. on any day. Messengers may work from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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What are the labor laws for Texas? ›

Texas Labor Laws Guide
Texas Labor Laws FAQ
Texas minimum wage$7.25
Texas overtime1.5 times the regular wage for any time worked over 40 hours/week ($10.87 for minimum wage workers)
Texas breaksBreaks not required by law (see below for exceptions)

What is the minimum wage in Texas in 2024? ›

As of 2024, the Texas minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for non-exempt employees, matching the federal minimum wage.

How old do you have to be to work at a daycare in Texas? ›

Must be at least 18 years old. Must have a high school diploma or a GED. Must meet current qualifications. Must be able to run the home in compliance with licensing standards and understand provider responsibilities.

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