The relationship between equipment dealers and farmers is close-knit and we have a vested interest for our customers to be prosperous. We know that when farmers are successful, dealers and our communities are successful.
That is why it would be unwise for a provincial government to disrupt this relationship by implementing unnecessary regulations on the agricultural community.
The right to repair (R2R) issue has some publicity in the United States. Attempts to pass legislation have been made in more than 25 states. In Canada, R2R has been discussed by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and in 2019 a private member’s bill was introduced in Ontario.
To date, no R2R bill impacting farm equipment has been passed in either country. Ultimately, that is a good thing. Let me explain why.
R2R evokes a can-do spirit and common sense. Unfortunately, that’s not what R2R is about. R2R proposes government-sanctioned intellectual property theft and promotes illegal modification.
Today’s equipment is high tech, efficient and safer. It allows farmers to accurately seed, spray and harvest. Manufacturers have made investments in technology because customers have asked for it.
New safety and emission features have been added and they are compliant with Canadian law. These laws were designed to keep farmers and the public safe.
As well, R2R legislation would make it difficult for dealers to protect customer data such as seeding/fertilizer/spraying rates and crop yield. Would farmers like their crop production data shared with those who buy their trade-ins? We think not.
So clearly put, R2R laws would raise privacy and safety concerns, stifle innovation and remove the incentive manufacturers have to create the products that customers demand.
Farmers still perform the vast majority of repairs. According to Successful Farming, farmers who own modern equipment still make 95 percent of the repairs on their own. So, in the few cases where a farmer requires assistance, equipment dealers provide highly trained technicians who have incentives to minimize downtime.
In our view, the R2R movement is more about “right to modify” than “right to repair.” It appears the R2R movement is intentionally confusing the issue. What they really want is to modify equipment. But this comes at a cost.
Modified equipment runs hotter and harder and is more prone to fail. It voids warranty, puts insurance coverage at risk, and substantially reduces the equipment’s trade-in value.
We have numerous examples of premature engine and transmission failures due to equipment being “chipped.” This fall, there has been an unusually high number of combine fires. It is against the law for a manufacturer, importer, distributor, or dealer to remove or alter an emission device, but we see and hear advertisements for “chips” or DEF defeat kits.
I have yet to meet a dealer who is against a farmer’s right to repair their own equipment. Dealers understand the frustration a customer has when he gets an error code and doesn’t know the extent of the issue. That is why the industry has come up with a solution to prevent the need for R2R legislation.
By Jan. 1, 2021, dealers and manufacturers will ensure that farmers have the tools they need to perform maintenance and basic repairs on their equipment. Diagnostic tools, which will identify serious issues that require the assistance of a dealer, will also be available. More information on this commitment is available at www.R2Rsolutions.org.
An industry solution is always better than legislation. If governments want to help the industry, make the forthcoming 5G technology available across all arable acres in Canada. That will allow us to take full advantage of remote access technology and will ensure we can provide farmers with quicker solutions.
John Schmeiser is chief executive officer of the Western Equipment Dealers Association.