Colorado farmers will have the right to repair their own tractors next year, and John Deere will have to provide them with the manuals and software to do so.
- Farmers in the U.S. have long fought for the right to repair their own equipment. Manufacturers often required farmers to take equipment to specialists due to the complex nature of the machines.
- The electronics in most modern farming equipment allow manufacturers to lock farmers out of the machines, preventing them from making their own repairs.
- Right to Repair advocates have accused manufacturers of holding a monopoly over the farming equipment repair industry.
- Colorado passed the Consumer Right To Repair Agriculture Equipment Act, allowing farmers to make repairs themselves.
- Colorado Governor Jared Polis will still need to sign the bill, but a spokesman has indicated the governor will sign the law, Vice reports.
Why it’s news
The new law is a big win for farmers who have pushed for companies like John Deere to allow them to make their own repairs. By locking farmers out of the equipment, John Deere and other manufacturers have had a monopoly on modern equipment repair. John Deere had made past promises that equipment repair would become more accessible but failed to deliver on that promise.
By limiting who can do repairs, John Deere says it is looking out for the best care for their products, as their repair teams know the products better than anyone else—not just any mechanic can fix a John Deere tractor, the company contends. The maintenance and service sector of John Deere makes up about 20% of sales.
In response, some farmers have learned how to hack their own tractors to either work on the equipment themselves or have a much cheaper mechanic complete the repair. Used tractors have also become more popular as farmers preferred equipment without computers or modern tech that prevented them from working on the tractors.
There is an ongoing class-action lawsuit against John Deere regarding the repair monopoly, along with accusations of violating EPA guidelines. At least one farmer in Missouri has accused the company of prohibiting him from completing a repair until he filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, Vice reports.
New legislation in Colorado is the first win in a long battle between farmers and manufacturers.
“Everyone who eats will benefit from this law. Farmers will have more timely options for repair, which will make it easier to use high-tech products, which, in turn, enables more productive farms. It will also help align the industry of agriculture with other products using technology-enabled products such as motor vehicles, trucks, wheelchairs, and cell phones. We should all be able to fix everything, everywhere, all the time,” director of Repair.org Gay Gordon-Byrne says.
Backing up a bit
Farmers are fighting back against John Deere requiring them to have equipment repaired or serviced at a dealership. For years, tractor manufacturer John Deere has maintained policies prohibiting farmers from doing their own machinery repairs or taking equipment to a non-John Deere shop.
John Deere makes up 53% of the tractor market in the U.S.
Even if farmers wanted to work on equipment themselves, the company installs software locks that only John Deere technicians can disable. Repairs can be costly and often take weeks, cutting into a farmer’s valuable time.
A 2022 lawsuit from North Dakota farmers and support from the Department of Justice could aid farmers in their efforts to repair their own equipment.