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.
Why it’s news
Early last year, North Dakota farmers filed a class-action lawsuit against John Deere—accusing the company of harming farmers and violating antitrust laws. As of 2020, John Deere says that the maintenance and service sector of its business made up about 20% of sales. Repairs are more profitable for the company than equipment sales, Bloomberg reports.
The Department of Justice has stepped in, offering support for the farmers, farm journal AgWeb reports. The DOJ compared the case to a 1992 Supreme Court ruling against Kodak. Kodak had a policy similar to John Deere’s, restricting repairs on its copy machines. The court ruled that Kodak’s policy was an antitrust violation.
In its statement, the DOJ pointed to a growing number of farmers going bankrupt. John Deere’s policy that forces farmers to get expensive repairs adds to the farmers’ financial pressure, AgWeb reports.
Some changes to John Deere’s policies could come before the lawsuit is ruled on. Last month, John Deere agreed to allow third-party repairs after signing an agreement with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
But some legislation is already in the works that would give farmers more control over where their equipment is repaired. Most recently, Colorado House Bill 23-1011 would require manufacturers to allow third-party repairs on farming equipment.
Last year, Congress considered a similar “Right to Repair” legislation that would also affect vehicles and electronic devices.