Today’s tractors are much more than large-wheeled agricultural machines cultivating a farmer’s field. These are high-tech devices controlled by software. AND new agreement between the largest tractor manufacturer and a lobbying group representing farmers, seeks to level the playing field.
Farmers often cannot repair their own tractors or use a service provider of their choice because the company that built the tractor, not the farmer, controls repair options. In accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between John Deere and the US Farm Bureau Federation, this may change.
Or it could lead to blocking popular state or federal legislation that would grant a more complete right to repair, says Aaron Perzhanovski, author of The Right to Repair: Taking Back the Things We Own. He is also a professor of law at the University of Michigan. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:
Texas Standard: In what ways are companies currently restricting farmers from using and repairing their equipment?
Aaron Perzhanovsky: These devices, in terms of their functionality and their operation, are really dependent on firmware as well as diagnostic and repair software. So if you can manage this software, you can manage this device even after it has been purchased by the farmer. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the repair markets.
What are the foundations of this new agreement, the Memorandum of Understanding between John Deere and the Farm Bureau Federation?
So I think that until we see any follow-up, it’s really better to view this MoU as a public relations document first and foremost, and in a sense as a sort of ploy to undermine the legislative efforts that , I think, will give farmers more reliable and reliable protection. According to Deere, the MoU obliges John Deere to provide some limited software tools that are already available to farmers. In addition to that, make some manuals, diagnostic codes and other information available to farmers, which would theoretically make it easier and cheaper for them to repair their machines themselves or rely on independent repair shops instead of what they do. needs to be done now, which is essentially going to an authorized John Deere dealer to do a lot of repairs when it comes to these units.
John Deere is a major player in the farm equipment industry, but not the only one. What does this mean for farmers owning Holland or something else?
Yes, I think this is a very important point. John Deere is the only manufacturer to sign this special MoU. So there are plenty of reasons to believe that this doesn’t really limit John Deere’s behavior, but it certainly doesn’t bind other manufacturers in the market, many of whom use very similar strategies and tactics to control the repair market.
So John Deere might want to prevent the law from being passed, but do you think it could happen, or do you think states and legislators at all levels will still push for it?
I would be surprised if we didn’t see renewed efforts at both the state and federal levels to introduce and pass the Right to Repair Act. The demand in the agricultural space for this kind of legislation is not going anywhere.
As various government agencies are potentially taking on this, is it likely that we will see political battles over this? Are right-to-repair initiatives more popular with one side or the other, or do they tend to be bipartisan?
I’m happy to report that repair eligibility is one of the few remaining truly bipartisan issues. If you look at the 30 or so states that have introduced these bills over the past few years, you will see that Republicans are contributing as much as Democrats, often they are introducing them together. If you look at the opinion polls, you will see really high numbers. We’re talking about 80% or more support among Republicans, Democrats and independents. So if you talk to consumers, they generally agree that this is a good idea. And so I don’t think it’s about the typical partisan divisions that we’re so used to seeing in our politics.