Electronics, brand-specific gadgetry, and internet connectivity are built-in features of many of today’s modern machines.
From the smallest of mobile phones to the largest of farming machinery, consumers are encouraged to buy products that are intended to be attended to only by the manufacturer.
The right-to-repair movement is a response to this manufacturer’s monopoly on repair. So why is the right to repair so important to farmers?
Why is the Right to Repair Important to Farmers?
The importance of the right to repair to farmers is significant as much of today’s farming equipment is computerized, connected to the internet, and reliant on company-authorized software and tools for repair. It affects farmers’ time which brings disastrous consequences for the land and the business. Farmers often face hefty sums for repairs by authorized agents.
Farming is also time-sensitive but dealer repairs may not be and if repairs are not attended to quickly this can have disastrous consequences for a farmer who may be mid-harvest or at another critical time point.
Which ag companies oppose the right to repair?
There are many agricultural companies that are set up to dissuade farmers from performing their own repairs or seeking their preferred fixer.
Around three years ago the Agricultural industry gave farmers an assurance that by 2021 they would have a right to repair solutions. This has not occurred across the board and there are still ag companies that oppose such legislation today.
Large US manufacturer John Deere is often cited as the prime example of an ag company that opposes consumer rights to repair, due in part to ongoing legal action.
While companies may not state their intention in such blatant terms, they are often expressed as a company committed to safety, environmental protection, preventing illegal modifications, or mechanical performance.
Their opposition to the right to repair is written into the fine print of warranties and enforced by withholding consumer access to repair information and services.
What is the right-to-repair law?
Today’s farming equipment is mostly a complex affair. For example, the majority of tractors have internet connectivity and when they break down require special tools and software to diagnose and fix the problem, companies that manufacture the tractors also hold rights to the information and tools needed to fix them.
In many cases, ag companies prohibit farmers from performing their own repairs. Farmers need to go to authorized dealers for repairs as some warranties ban the use of third parties for repair purposes.
Right to Repair laws have been drafted as a response to this situation and are intended to give power back to the consumer.
John Deere workers strike 2021
The John Deere workers’ strike of 2021 is very important and involves as many as 10,000 employees of the world’s largest agricultural machinery manufacturer.
These employees are members of the United Auto Workers labor union, and despite months of negotiation, were unable to agree with the company on new contract conditions.
Negotiations were largely focused on wages and benefits and culminated in the workers striking on October 14th. The workers’ strike has the potential to affect farmers and others who work in time-sensitive industries such as construction.
Although John Deere has released statements attempting to reassure farmers and others that the company will continue to function throughout the strike action, there is apprehension in the agricultural community as to what the long-term ramifications may be.
To conclude, workers are unhappy with John Deere, farmers are unhappy with John Deere, and it appears that similar to the R2R movement, it is the courts that will decide how it eventually plays out.
What states have the right to repair law?
For some time now, farmers and their advocates have been making their opinions heard through the R2R (Right to Repair) movement.
Associations have been established to lobby lawmakers into introducing legislation that protects the rights of farmers to legally repair their own equipment.
Currently, there’s a robust and ongoing debate around the right-to-repair laws in most US states. So far this year, 27 states have introduced or carried over R2R bills.
However, while many states are in the process of or working towards imposing the right to repair into law, many of the proposed bills do not answer farmers’ interests directly.
Unfortunately for the farming industry around two-thirds of the right-to-repair bills that have been filed around the country so far do not address the issue of farming equipment.
So even if your state has enacted, or is in the process of enacting, right-to-repair legislation it may not benefit you as a farmer.
In the past several months, Joe Biden has issued an executive order calling on federal agencies to prioritize consumer rights within the right to repair domain and asking for action to be taken against manufacturers who refuse.
What companies outside of ag oppose the right to repair?
Outside of agriculture, many companies involved in the manufacture of technological and electronic devices also oppose a consumer’s right to repair.
In fact, global behemoths Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, have all been involved in efforts to block right-to-repair legislation from being adopted in the US.
Right to repair in Australia and Canada
In Australia, ag companies such as John Deere maintain that they support customers’ ability to maintain, diagnose, and repair their equipment.
The reality is that Australian farmers have been facing a similar situation to their US counterparts in having their repair right manufacturer-controlled.
There has also been a similar outcry from the Australian farming community and while the debate is ongoing it appears that new legislation will eventually come into effect that will strengthen farmers’ R2R rights in the country.
Since 2019 Canada has had legislation in place that protects the R2R of consumers by ensuring that manufacturers provide access to parts, tools, and repair services at reasonable prices.
The law also requires that manufacturers uphold warranties when repair work is performed by an independent technician.
Farmers are emblematic of a DIY mob, solving problems on the land with their hands. By withholding farmers’ rights to repair, Agricultural companies have pitted themselves against a formidable opponent.
All industry eyes will be on the months ahead to see how things that are playing out in the court will affect the harvests to come.
Jack is the owner, chief editor, and senior writer of Farms Wise.
Farming has always been a passion of his since he was a young boy. Growing up on a small farm in rural America, he learned the value of hard work and dedication from an early age.
After completing his degree in Agriculture, he decided to follow his dream and became a farmer in 2009.
Since then, he has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field. He has grown a variety of crops, tended to farm animals, and worked with all sorts of farming machinery. Continue reading…