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U.S. Supreme Court

Farmers Reservoir & Irrigation Co. v. McComb, 337 U.S. 755 (1949)

Farmers Reservoir & Irrigation Co. v. McComb

Argued December 16, 1948

Decided June 27, 1949*

337 U.S. 755


The sole activity of a mutual irrigation company owned entirely by farmers is the collection, storage, and distribution of water for irrigation purposes, wholly within Colorado. The water is supplied by the company to farmers at headgates on the company's canals, whence it is taken into the farmers' own laterals and used by them in the production of agricultural products to be shipped in interstate commerce. The company is nonprofit, and distributes water only to its stockholders.

Held: the company's field employees (ditch riders, lake tenders, and maintenance men) and its bookkeeper are within the coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as employed in an "occupation necessary to the production" of goods for interstate commerce, within the meaning of § 3(j), and are not exempt under § 13(a) as "employed in agriculture." Pp. 337 U. S. 756-770.

1. The fact that a particular activity is necessary to agricultural production does not require the conclusion that it is agricultural production. P. 337 U. S. 759.

2. The test of whether a particular type of activity is agricultural is whether the activity is carried on as part of the agricultural function or is separately organized as an independent productive activity. P. 337 U. S. 761.

3. The irrigation company is not engaged in "agriculture," within the meaning of § 3(f) of the Act, since it owns no farms, raises no crops, and is not engaged in cultivating or tilling the soil or in growing any agricultural commodity. Pp. 337 U. S. 762-764.

4. In § 3(f) of the Act, which defines "agriculture," the word "production" is not used in the special expanded meaning in which it is used in § 3(j) of the Act. Pp. 337 U. S. 764-766.

Page 337 U. S. 756

5. The activities of the employees in question are not exempt under § 3(f) as practices "performed by a farmer or on a farm." Pp. 337 U. S. 766-768.

6. Assuming that the agricultural exemption includes the work of persons who do no farming, but are employed by farmers, the employees here in question are nonetheless not exempt, since they are employed not by farmers, but by the company, and the fact that the company is owned by farmers, and is nonprofit, is immaterial. Pp. 337 U. S. 768-769.

167 F.2d 911 modified and affirmed.

A suit by the Administrator to restrain alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act by a mutual irrigation company was dismissed by the District Court, which held the employees in question exempt as employed in agriculture. The Court of Appeals reversed, except as to a bookkeeper, whose case it regarded as moot. 167 F.2d 911. This Court granted cross-petitions for certiorari. 335 U.S. 809. Modified and affirmed, p. 337 U. S. 770.

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