Right to repair farm equipment

While debates continue regarding consumers’ rights to repair, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the manufacturers of most farm machinery sold in the U.S. are working together to settle the issue.

Five manufacturers have signed memorandums of understanding with AFBF giving farmers greater ability to repair their equipment while still protecting the intellectual property rights of the manufacturers. As farm equipment technology has advanced, the need for these types of agreements has grown.

Sam Kieffer, AFBF vice president of public affairs, said the MOUs address the problems farmers have been having with the repair of high-tech machinery without the need for more regulations.

“What our members asked of us at the national level was to establish these MOUs instead of seeking a legislative solution,” he said.

The MOUs establish ongoing communication between AFBF and the manufacturers so the agreements can be amended as concerns arise, Kieffer added. “We can do that without having to go to Congress and renegotiate with 535 elected officials.”

While AFBF is focusing on addressing right to repair issues with the MOUs, organization leaders and staff will continue to monitor right to repair legislation.

The list of manufacturers

The first MOU was signed in January 2023 with John Deere. Since then, AFBF has signed additional agreements with CNH (which includes Case IH and New Holland), AGCO, CLAAS of America, and Kubota. The MOUs provide farmers with access to error codes, as well as specialty tools and repair information.

The agreements also allow farmers and independent repair shops to buy diagnostic tools from manufacturers at reasonable prices. This gives farmers additional options for repairing equipment on their farms or at nearby repair facilities.

AFBF has just completed the first of the semi-annual meetings planned with each manufacturer to review the agreements.

“We continue to solicit feedback from our folks on what challenges they have that cannot be addressed at the dealer level,” Keiffer said.

A form is available to report any concerns.

Farmers have just finished with the first harvest season under the agreements, so it may take some time to identify and address any ongoing issues farmers, dealers or manufacturers encounter, Keiffer said. “We think everybody should give these MOUs a chance.”

Right to repair in action

Don Jones, who operates D&J Sales and Service in Cadiz, Ohio, with his family, said he’s glad to see right to repair concerns addressed using MOUs rather than legislation. The Harrison County Farm Bureau member is also a state representative whose district includes all of Harrison and Noble counties as well as parts of Guernsey, Washington and Belmont counties.

“Whenever you can solve a problem through the private sector versus through the legislative process, it’s a whole lot more flexible and allows common sense, usually, to prevail,” he said.

Right to Repair
D&J Service Technician Jason Anderson uses technology to help do his work on a tractor.

D&J Sales and Service handles new and used equipment from a variety of manufacturers, including AGCO, which has signed one of the MOUs. The dealership has been in business for 34 years, and Jones said manufacturers are now working more closely with dealers and customers to provide technical support than in the past.

“Those end users of their products are the ones that are going to make or break them at the end of the day,” he said.

Jones said the dealership’s customers vary in their interest in doing their own maintenance. For example, the dealership held a baler clinic that drew in 170 people. Some customers took extensive notes so they can do their own preventative maintenance and common repairs. But, after hearing the presentations, others said they would rather just call the dealership to take care of repairs and maintenance. Jones expects to see a similar variation in how different farmers approach repairs to equipment with advanced technology.

So far, Jones said, many farmers are still unaware of the right to repair MOUs, but he has heard from one farmer who is interested in joining with other farmers to buy a diagnostic tool and the cables required for various brands of equipment.

The right to repair agreements are most important to farmers who are using newer equipment that relies on high-tech electronics and software, Jones pointed out. “For those guys, it will be a big deal for them.”

As with mechanical repairs, farmers will need to consider their own expertise when they’re working on their equipment. “If you don’t have any diagnostic background, that’s going to present a problem,” Jones said. Some people struggle even to reset the time on the clock on their tractor, he added. “That’s probably not the guy you want pushing buttons on the dash.”

Another consideration is internet connectivity, Jones noted. That remains a problem in his area, and many high-tech diagnostic tools require a connection. “If you have a connectivity issue—that’s going to stop the whole process.”

Seeking feedback

AFBF wants to hear from you. If you would like to provide feedback or are having issues with a manufacturer that signed an MOU, visit ofb.ag/fbrighttorepair and let AFBF know.

Photos by Bryan Rinnert

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