4-H and Related Agricultural Training Child Labor Exception


The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits employers from employing youth under the age of 16 in agricultural occupations that are particularly hazardous for youth under the age of 16, except in limited circumstances listed below. However, this restriction on youth employment for particularly hazardous agricultural occupations for minors under the age of 16 does not apply when the minor has successfully completed one or more training programs provided by the 4-H or related training programs, as discussed below, and:

  • has been instructed on safe and proper operation of the specific equipment they will use
  • is continuously and closely supervised by the employer where feasible, or, where not feasible in work such as cultivating, their safety is checked by the employer at least at midmorning, noon, and midafternoon.

29 CFR 570.72(b); 29 CFR 570.71(a)(1)




4-H tractor operation program

Youth may be employed in the occupation of operating a tractor of over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such a tractor, if the following criteria are met:

  • the youth is a 4-H member;
  • the youth is 14 years of age, or older;
  • the youth is familiar with the normal working hazards in agriculture;
  • the youth has completed a 10-hour training program which includes the following units from manuals of the 4-H tractor program conducted by, or in accordance with the requirements of, the Cooperative Extension Service of a land grant university:
    • First-year Manual:
      • Unit 1—Learning How to be Safe;
      • Unit 4—The Instrument Panel;
      • Unit 5—Controls for Your Tractor;
      • Unit 6—Daily Maintenance and Safety Check; and
      • Unit 7—Starting and Stopping Your Tractor;
    • Second-year Manual:
      • Unit 1—Tractor Safety on the Farm;
    • Third-year Manual:
      • Unit 1—Tractor Safety on the Highway;
      • Unit 3—Hitches, Power-take-off, and Hydraulic Controls;
    • the youth has passed a written examination on tractor safety and has demonstrated his ability to operate a tractor safely with a two-wheeled trailed implement on a course similar to one of the 4-H Tractor Operator’s Contest Courses; and
    • the youth’s employer has on file with the child’s records a copy of a certificate acceptable by the US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, signed by the leader who conducted the training program and by an Extension Agent of the Cooperative Extension Service of a land grant university to the effect that the child has completed all the requirements specified above.

29 CFR 570.72(b)(1)



4-H machine operation program

If the criteria listed below are met youth may be employed in the occupation of operating or assisting to operate, including starting, stopping, adjusting, feeding, or any other activity involving physical contact associated with the operation, any of the following machines:

  • corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, or 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, or nonwalking type rotary tiller

29 CFR 570.72(b)(2); 29 CFR 570.71(a)(2)

The criteria that must be met for a youth to be employed in the occupations listed above:

  • the youth satisfies all the requirements specified in paragraphs (b)(2)(i) through (v) of this section;
  • the youth has completed an additional 10-hour training program requirement for on farm machinery safety (in addition to the 10-hour program for the 4-H tractor operation program), including 4-H Fourth-Year Manual, Unit 1, Safe Use of Farm Machinery;
  • the youth has passed a written and practical examination on safe machinery operation; and
  • the youth’s employer has on file with the child’s records a copy of a certificate acceptable by the US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, signed by the leader who conducted the training program and by an Extension Agent of the Cooperative Extension Service of a land grant university, to the effect that the child has completed all of the requirements specified above.

29 CFR 570.72(b)(2)



Tractor and machine operation program

If the criteria listed below are met youth may be employed in the occupation of operating a tractor of over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such a tractor or the occupation of operating or assisting to operate, including starting, stopping, adjusting, feeding, or any other activity involving physical contact associated with the operation, any of the following machines:

  • corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, or 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, or nonwalking type rotary tiller

29 CFR 570.72(b)(3)

The criteria that must be met for a youth to be employed in the occupations listed above:

  • the youth is 14 years of age, or older;
  • the youth has completed a 4-hour orientation course familiarizing him with the normal working hazards in agriculture;
  • the youth has completed a 20-hour training program on safe operation of tractors and farm machinery, which covers all material specified in tractor and machine operations programs listed above;
  • the youth has passed a written examination on tractor and farm machinery safety, and has demonstrated his ability to operate a tractor with a two-wheeled trailed implement on a course similar to a 4-H Tractor Operator’s Contest Course, and to operate farm machinery safely;
  • the youth’s employer has on file with the child’s records a copy of a certificate acceptable by the US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, signed by the volunteer leader who conducted the training program and by an Extension Agent of the Cooperative Extension Service of a land grant university, to the effect that all of the requirements listed above have been met.

29 CFR 570.72(b)(3)



Vocational agricultural training

The restriction on youth employment for particularly hazardous agricultural occupations for minors under the age of 16 does not apply when:

  • the minor is a vocational agricultural student who has completed one or more of the training programs discussed below;
  • the minor has been instructed by their employer in the safe and proper operation of the specific equipment his is to use; and
  • who is continuously and closely supervised by his employer where feasible or, where not feasible, in work such as cultivating, whose safety is checked by the employer at least at mid-morning, noon, and mid-afternoon



Tractor operation program

Vocational agricultural students under the age of 16 may be employed in the occupation of operating a tractor of over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of

  • the youth is 14 years of age, or older;
  • the youth is familiar with the normal working hazards in agriculture;
  • the youth has completed a 15-hour training program which includes the required units specified in the Vocational Agriculture Training Program in Safe Tractor Operation, outlined by the Office of Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and acceptable by the U.S. Department of Labor
  • the youth has passed both a written test and a practical test on tractor safety including a demonstration of his ability to operate safely a tractor with a two-wheeled trailed implement on a test course similar to that described in the Vocational Agriculture Training Program in Safe Tractor Operation, outlined by the Office of Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; and
  • the youth’s employer has on file with the child’s records kept a copy of a certificate acceptable by the US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, signed by the Vocational Agriculture teacher who conducted the program to the effect that the student has completed all the requirements specified above.

29 CFR 570.72(c)(1)



Machinery operation program

If the criteria listed below are met, vocational agricultural students under the age of 16 may be employed in the occupation of operating or assisting to operate, including starting, stopping, adjusting, feeding, or any other activity involving physical contact associated with the operation, any of the following machines:

  • corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, or 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, or nonwalking type rotary tiller

The criteria that must be met for a youth to be employed in the occupations listed above:

  • the youth has completed an additional 10-hour training program which includes the required units specified in the Vocational Agriculture Training Program in Safe Farm Machinery Operation, outlined by the Office of Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and approved by the US Department of Labor;
  • the youth has passed both a written test and a practical test on safe machinery operation similar to that described in the Vocational Agriculture Training Program in Safe Farm Machinery Operation, outlined by the Office of Education, US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; and
  • the youth’s employer has on file with the child’s records a copy of a certificate acceptable by the Wage and Hour Division, signed by the Vocational Agriculture teacher who conducted the program to the effect that student has completed all the requirements specified above.

29 CFR 570.72(c)(1)