‘Right to Repair’ farm equipment and empowering family farmers is aim of Tester’s new legislation
Bill allows farmers to repair own equipment, breaking up consolidation in repair markets
As a part of his continued effort to break up consolidation in the agriculture industry, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., today, Feb. 1, introduced his Agriculture Right to Repair Act, which will finally guarantee farmers the right to repair their own equipment and end current restrictions on the repair market.
“I’ve been a farmer my whole life, and I’ve seen the unfair practices of equipment manufacturers make it harder and harder for folks to work on their tractors themselves— forcing them to go to an authorized mechanic and pay an arm and a leg for necessary repairs,” said Tester. “Manufacturers have prevented producers from fixing their own machines in order to bolster corporate profits, and they’ve done it at the expense of family farmers and ranchers, who work hard every day to harvest the food that feeds families across the country. Farmers operate in tight windows and on tight margins, and they simply can’t afford to waste time or money bringing their equipment to dealer authorized mechanics in the middle of a season. They need to be able to repair their own equipment, and this legislation will secure them that right.”
With advanced technology now being incorporated into production agriculture, it has become more and more difficult for farmers and ranchers to fix their own equipment, hurting the bottom lines of both producers and local non dealer-certified repair shops. Tester’s legislation will combat the issue of right to repair by requiring original equipment manufacturers to make it easier for farmers to make these repairs and continue doing business in rural America.
“Montana Farmers Union appreciates Sen. Tester standing with family farms and ranches and demanding that equipment manufacturers allow us the right to repair our own equipment,” Said Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer. “Agriculture is a stressful line of work as is — we can’t control the weather, prices for our production and inputs are dictated to us by the corporate monopolies, and now they won’t let us repair our own equipment. Sen. Tester can’t control the weather either, but we appreciate him fighting for the folks in rural Montana.”
“The Agricultural Right to Repair Act is the common-sense, long-overdue shield that farmers have been waiting for — it restores farmer access to the parts, tools, and software necessary to repair their equipment and do their jobs,” said Daniel Haley, senior legal analyst at the Open Market Institute. “The Open Markets Institute has made right to repair a central component of our policy agenda. We believe this bill advances farmers’ right to repair and applaud Sen. Tester for stepping up for farmers.”
“It’s simple: Farmers should be able to fix their own tractors. But manufacturer-imposed repair restrictions allow manufacturers to determine who does the repair, when and for how much. We need to give farmers repair choices and let them get back to producing the food that goes on our tables. Farmers are asking for help — the Senate should pass the Agricultural Right to Repair Act to make it clear that they are listening,” said Kevin O’Reilly, Right to Repair campaign director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
“Manufacturers have far too much control over what farmers are allowed to do with their own equipment, and this costs farmers time and money,” said Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union. “Sen. Tester’s bill would give farmers and independent mechanics the freedom to fix their equipment in a timely and cost-effective way.”
“On behalf of the nation’s farmers and rural communities, we want to thank Sen. Tester for introducing this legislation,” said Sarah Carden, policy advocate for Farm Action. “Instead of forcing farmers to haul their equipment hundreds of miles and pay out the nose for simple diagnostics, this bill gives them rights to the items they’ve purchased and lets them focus on producing food for the rest of the country — all while giving independent repair shops a chance to compete.”
“Everyone needs to be able to fix their stuff — or they have to throw it away and buy new, or go without. This applies most acutely to farmers and ranchers, where the weather is fickle, rural locations are at great distances from help, and doing without means losing entire crops,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of The Repair Association. “There are no good reasons for preventing equipment owners from fixing their purchases — only bad excuses wrapped in the pretense of making farmers safer and more secure while creating unfair and deceptive repair monopolies that only benefit the manufacturer. Thanks to Sen. Tester for helping to restore a free market for repairs, which will allow farmers to be more competitive, improve rural life, and allow family farms to stay in business and serve our nation.”
“This bill marks a major step forward in the fight to secure the right to repair. Copyright law should not prevent people from repairing things they own. This bill remedies one of the most outrageous abuses of modern copyright law by ensuring that farmers will no longer have to ask the Copyright Office for permission to repair their equipment every three years” said Kathleen Burke, policy counsel at Public Knowledge.
“Consumer Reports strongly supports consumers having the right to repair their own equipment on their own terms, rather than having to always return to the manufacturer or its hand-picked technician. More repair choices means more convenience and lower cost. This is as important for farmers as it is for all consumers. We applaud Sen. Tester for his efforts to make the right to repair a reality for farmers,” said George Slover, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports.
“The monopolization of repair markets has been incredibly profitable for agribusiness giants, but it’s devastating farmers and ranchers across the country who are forced to pay more and wait to fix equipment they already own. With this legislation, Sen. Tester is taking an important step towards revitalizing American agriculture and putting power back where it belongs: with American farmers, ranchers, and producers,” said J.D. Scholten, senior advisor to the American Economic Liberties Project.
“Farmers are the kind of people who’re in it for the long haul, and we expect the same from our equipment,” said Doug Crabtree, member of the Organic Trade Association board of directors, organic farmer and owner of Vilicus Farms in Northern Hill Country, Montana. “If your car isn’t running right, you don’t just turn around and buy another one, you fix it. It’s common sense that farmers should be able to do the same thing for their farm equipment. This legislation would ensure we’re able to freely repair our farm machinery and make the most out of that investment. Waiting for the dealer isn’t always an option. We may be several hours drive from the dealer service technician, or the tech may be another several hours in the other direction. We HAVE to be able to do our own repairs”
Tester’s legislation tackles consolidation in the repair market specifically by requiring equipment manufacturers to:
· Make available any documentation, part, software, or tool required to diagnose, maintain, or repair their equipment.
· Provide means to disable and re-enable an electronic security lock or other security-related function to effect diagnostics, repair, or maintenance.
· Permit third party software to provide interoperability with other parts/tools, and to protect both the farmer’s data and equipment from hackers.
· Ensure that when a manufacturer no longer produces documentation, parts, software, or tools for its equipment that the relevant copyrights and patents are placed in the public domain.
· Ensure parts are replaceable using commonly available tools without causing damage to the equipment, or provide specialized tools to owners or independent providers on fair and reasonable terms.
· Return data ownership to farmers. Manufacturers currently collect and sell all the data generated by farmers, and this data is the farmers’ “secret sauce” for how they conduct their business.
The legislation will also empower the Federal Trade Commission to treat any violations of the above provisions as an unfair or deceptive act. It also grants the FTC authority to promulgate regulations necessary to carry out this bill.
The text of Tester’s legislation can be found at https://www.tester.senate.gov/files/Legislation/Ag%20Right%20to%20Repair%20Bill%20Text.pdf.
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