Legislation that would make it easier for farmers to fix their own tractors without having to take it to a dealership is gaining traction on the Hill. A repair bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday would enshrine the right to repair in law.
As first reported by NBC News, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced a bill called the Agricultural Right to Repair Act into the Senate on Tuesday. The bill would “require original equipment manufacturers to make available certain documentation, parts, software, and tools with respect to electronics-enabled implements of agriculture, and for other purposes.”
Right now, farmers are having a hard time fixing their tractors and other equipment. Especially if they own anything manufactured by John Deere in the last few decades. On board computers control many of the functions of the modern tractor and manufacturers such as John Deere used those computers to force farmers to go to an authorized repair center to do even the most basic repairs.
It’s become such a widespread issue with America’s farmers that they’ve begun hacking their own tractors and purchasing old equipment made before the advent of computerized machines. John Deere had previously promised to make its tractors easier to repair, but hasn’t. Multiple farmers have sued the company over the issue and even its shareholders have demanded change.
"For years, manufacturers have been insisting that they will get farmers what they need to fix their tractors,” Kevin O'Reilly, Right to Repair Campaign Director at U.S. PIRG, told Motherboard. “They claim that they're 98% of the way there. But farmers keep saying that they don't have what they need—and they're getting tired of waiting. With the introduction of this bill, Sen. Tester is going to bat for those American farmers. The Senate should follow his lead and pass this commonsense reform."
“Farmers are the ultimate fixers,” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit told Motherboard. “They are immensely capable, but manufacturers are taking advantage of new technology to cut them off from repairing their own equipment. Senator Tester's bill will help farmers regain their independence.”
This new law, should it pass, would force John Deere and other manufacturers to let farmers repair their own equipment. It would require companies that make agricultural equipment to make everything available to the farmer that is currently used by the dealer. Critically, it would make manufacturers provide software and documentation at “costs that are equivalent to the lowest actual cost for which the OEM offers the part, tool, software, or documentation to an authorized repair provider.”
When it comes to software, the bill requires “the software tool is made available by the OEM at no charge and without requiring authorization or internet access for use or operation of the software tool, or imposing impediments to access or use.”
This legislation is just the latest in a long line of new right-to-repair legislation. After years of electronics, car, and agricultural manufacturers maintaining robust repair monopolies, legislators are finally addressing the problem. Right-to-repair bills are working their way through several U.S. state houses, a national bill is being considered in Congress, and President Biden has repeatedly affirmed his support of changing America’s laws to make it easier for people to fix their own stuff.