By Gordon Hopkins
On Sunday, January 8, 2023, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and agricultural equipment maker John Deere signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will allow farmers and ranchers to repair their own tractors and other implements.
“Right to Repair” has been a contentious issue among ag producers for years. Some manufacturers place restrictions that allow only authorized dealerships to make repairs, whether that be automobiles, phones, computers or agricultural equipment. According to the advocacy group, Repair.org, “You bought it, you should own it. Period. You should have the right to use it, modify it, and repair it whenever, wherever, and however you want.”
AFBF President Zippy Duvall said, “A piece of equipment is a major investment. Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired, or to repair it themselves, to help control costs.”
There have been numerous attempts at a legislative solution. Last year, Senator Tom Brandt’s priority bill was LB543, which adopts the Agricultural Equipment Right-to-Repair Act.
“LB543 is common sense legislation meant to address repairs that farmers can do themselves, which will save our farmers crucial time and money. Right to repair is the spirit of rural Nebraska. If it breaks, you try to fix it. LB543 allows Nebraska farmers access to what they need to fix the machinery that they own and to solve problems on the farm in a timely manner,” Senator Brandt said at the time.
That bill ultimately failed to advance.
While this MOU does address the “Right to Repair” issue, it is important to remember it involves John Deere and no other manufacturers.
Jane Kleeb, Chair of the Nebraska Democratic party, Tweeted on Monday, January 9, in response to the news, “We still need right to repair in the state laws. Hoping #NELeg (Nebraska Legislature) gets it over the finish line not just in committee this year.”
The Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) reacted positively to the news, “The landmark MOU is the culmination of several years of discussions with John Deere and a major step forward on Farm Bureau policy that was brought forward by Nebraska Farm Bureau.”
“Farmers and ranchers need to have the ability to purchase what they need at a reasonable rate to get their equipment up and running or have the option of turning to an independent technician. This MOU creates an official agreement that clearly sets parameters and creates a mechanism to resolve issues as they arise,” said Mark McHargue, NEFB president.
According to the NEFB, the MOU is similar to ones utilized in the automobile industry, whereby vehicle owners and independent technicians can purchase information, diagnostic equipment, and parts needed for vehicle repairs from vehicle manufacturers has long been a goal of Nebraska Farm Bureau. Through this MOU, farmers, ranchers, and independent repair facilities will have access to diagnostic and repair codes and their meanings; manuals (operator, parts, service); product guides; directly purchase diagnostic tools from John Deere; and assistance from John Deere when ordering parts and products.
“Farmers don’t want access to the computer programming. They simply want to be able to diagnose and fix the problem so they can get their equipment back to the fields. By working with John Deere and American Farm Bureau, the need for legislative or regulatory action on the right to repair issue will be mitigated,” said McHargue.
David Gilmore, John Deere Senior Vice President, Ag and Turf Sales and Marketing, said, “This agreement reaffirms the long-standing commitment Deere has made to ensure our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to make many repairs to their machines. We look forward to working alongside the American Farm Bureau and our customers in the months and years ahead to ensure farmers continue to have the tools and resources to diagnose, maintain and repair their equipment.”