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Farmers Gaining Right to Repair Equipment After Years-Long Battle

Farmers Gaining Right to Repair Equipment After Years-Long Battle

Jerry Warren was considering buying some black-market hacking equipment, but he didn’t want to use it on a computer or security system.

He wanted to use it on his tractor.

The Randolph County, Indiana, farmer had purchased a John Deere that came with state-of-the-art technology making field work easier.

There was just one hang up. Farmers and independent mechanics were literally locked out from the computer system, making it impossible to diagnose or fix any tech issues. Instead, the company required all repairs be done at a John Deere dealership.

That became a serious issue this year when his tractor’s computer system malfunctioned. The dealership had so many back orders on repairs they couldn’t send a technician for two days.

That’s one of the reasons Warren found himself looking at black-market diagnostic equipment from Ukraine to make the repairs himself.

“It felt like we were being held hostage by our John Deere dealers,” he said. “In this business, time is so terribly important, and the dollars that are lost sitting around waiting on something to get fixed is just nerve racking.”

Now, after years of pressure from lobbying groups and state governments, that hostage situation has finally come to an end.

John Deere and CNH Industrial Brands, which owns New Holland, earlier this year agreed to give farmers the right to repair their own equipment. AGCO and Kubota last month followed suit. Now, roughly 70% of the agricultural machinery sold in the United States is covered by an agreement.

The companies are set to release the necessary codes and passwords to access their computer systems. Diagnostic equipment can also be purchased for on-the-farm repairs.

The agreements were all signed as memorandums of understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which for years lobbied and negotiated with the companies to open up computer repairs to customers.


Those negotiations jumped forward this year after the U.S. House proposed the REPAIR Act, according to Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron. The bipartisan bill would prohibit motor-vehicle companies from withholding data, repair information and tools from customers.

The legislation gained support from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who helped lead a coalition of 27 other state attorney generals urging lawmakers to approve the bill.

“It is about ensuring that farmers can repair their tractors for a reasonable price and quickly enough to harvest their crops,” reads a portion of a letter sent by the coalition to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Added pressure came after Colorado in April became the first state to approve its own right-to-repair legislation.

The looming prospect of government regulation on the industry spurred the manufacturers to address the issue with Farm Bureau instead of Congress, Kron explained.

“There were a few states that were talking about doing some legislative fixes,” he said. “The trouble there is you could end up with 50 sets of rules from 50 states. The pressure finally got strong enough they realized they needed one standard to operate by.”

The companies make it clear they want to avoid government intervention. Each agreement with Farm Bureau says the federation must “refrain from introducing, promoting or supporting” federal or state right-to-repair legislation that would impose stricter requirements than those in the agreements.

If sterner legislation is enacted, the manufacturers can withdraw from the memorandums within 15 days.


Indiana farmer Warren said the agreements are a game changer for his family-run operation, which farms about 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans. He plans to purchase diagnostic equipment as soon as it becomes available to avoid the $150-an-hour charge from his John Deere dealership.

Third-party access to those repair tools is also sure to bring down prices across the board now that dealers have outside competition, according to Michael Langemeier, associate director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.

That comes as repair costs hit record highs due to inflation. From 2019 to 2021, farmers spent nearly 15% more of their income on farm supplies and repairs, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Anything farmers can do to be more economical with the repairs is a good thing,” Langemeier said.

The agreements aren’t just a win for farmers, though. Many growers, including Warren, had postponed buying new equipment to avoid the computer-lockout issues, he explained. That hurt companies’ bottom lines.


Photo Credit: GettyImages-LightFieldStudios

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Categories: Indiana, Business, Equipment & Machinery, General

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