Harmonized farm equipment legislation plows ahead

REGINA, Sask. — Ontario is hoping to convince provincial governments on the Prairies about the merits of harmonizing consumer protection legislation for farmers.

The various provincial acts are similar but were written in different economic times, which has resulted in confusion for producers, dealers and manufacturers.

Finbar Desir of the Ontario agriculture ministry is meeting with his prairie counterparts in hopes of finding a standardized solution.

The acts now include features such as 72 hour time limits for in-season part orders.

Dealers must pay for half the costs of replacement machines if the parts aren’t available within that time period.

Farmers also have the right to return new machinery if it fails to perform as billed by the company or if it breaks down within a set period of time and the dealer can’t resolve the issue.

However, the way those requirements are spelled out are different between regions.

Manufacturers also have different obligations between provinces and states.

In some cases, machinery dealers can return unsold equipment to manufacturers if dealerships close, but in other cases they can’t.

Ray Malinowski of Leon’s Manufacturing in Yorkton, Sask., chairs the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada.

A veteran farm machinery builder, Malinowski has recently seen companies, mainly in the United States, use these types of legislation to return machinery to short-line manufacturers during dealership consolidations rather than closures.

“The legislations need some modernization to address the changes in business that we are experiencing with further concentration of farm machinery dealerships across North America,” he said.

“The mom and pop dealers are disappearing and we need some legislative changes that protect farmers and set some rules that ensure that we all benefit from a good farm economy,” he said while attending the association’s annual meeting in Regina last week.

John Schmeiser of the Canada West Equipment Dealers Association said harmonized legislation in Canada would simplify things for his members, who often deal in more than one province at a time.

“Our members would appreciate a harmonized system that appreciates how the industry has changed,” he said.

Desir said machinery dealers would also like to shift some of the responsibility for transportation of broken machinery back to the dealerships or repair centres for warranty claims to the manufacturers.

Machinery is larger and the distances between farms and dealers are greater than it was when the acts were created. Dealers feel that isn’t always reflected in the regulations.

“Manufacturers don’t agree. Dealers want to debate this and see if they can come to an agreement for what they feel is a better fit for the current times,” Desir said.

Don Brooks of the Saskatchewan government said he and representatives of the other provinces are meeting to discuss a common approach to farm machinery sales regulations.

He said the current provincial legislations also have different methods of dispute resolution, which might benefit from a review.

“Generally, we hold few hearings (for compensation) and most complaints are dealt with pretty quickly,” he said about the process that can provide compensation of up to $10,000 in Saskatchewan.

The province provides sets of standardized forms for machinery sales contracts that ensure all parties know their responsibilities.

“That is a strong tool that dealers and farmers can use to ensure everyone is dealt with fairly,” he said.

Schmeiser said dealers are looking for a simplified set of rules that all parties can use across the country.

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