American farmers’ right to repair powered by the president

Farmers have long been repairing their own equipment. However, the tools needed for many modern machines extend well beyond the toolbox. Who holds the information to make those fixes and tools to do it have been a bone of contention between the machinery industry and producers.  |  File photo

President Biden issued an executive order on a farmer’s right to repair their equipment.

On July 9 President Biden signed the order that asks the Federal Trade Commission to force large manufactures including tech companies and agricultural OEMs let consumers repair their own devices or use the technician of their choice.

Biden’s executive order included 72 specific provisions meant to address “economic consolidation” in multiple sectors.

During a July 6 press briefing the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. Department of Agriculture will engage in a series of rulemakings that will affect a bolster a farmer’s ability to choose how their agricultural machinery gets repaired.

The new rules will “increase competition in agricultural industries to boost farmers’ and ranchers’ earnings, fight back against abuses of power by giant agribusiness corporations, and give farmers the right to repair their own equipment how they like,” Psaki said.The executive order will also include new rules that will make it easier for farmers to bring and win claims against chicken processors, as well as new rules defining when meat can bear “Product of the USA” designations.

John Schmeiser, chief executive officer of Western Equipment Dealers Association, said the announcement is all politics because there is no need for the right to repair laws in the agriculture sector.

“I’m not surprised that we’re seeing this because it was part of the democratic party national platform,” Schmeiser said.

“They are following their platform as opposed to looking at what’s happened in the industry where the industry has solved the problem.”

He said the right to repair movement in the U.S. started with appliances and smartphones and then it found a group of disgruntled farmers that didn’t like waiting for a service tech to come out and provide them with an error code.

“It’s unfortunate that an outside party with no knowledge of how our industry has worked has lumped farm equipment into their issue,” Schmeiser said.

“We got drawn into somebody else’s fight.”

The executive order will likely give authority to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to develop rules governing the right to repair.

The FTC released a report earlier this year that suggested changes to state and federal law that would force OEMs to make repairs easier and software more accessible.

Schmeiser said right to repair laws are not needed for the agriculture sector because its members are providing farmers and third party mechanics everything needed to fix farm equipment.

“The industry commitment that was launched on Jan. 1st this year. The industry commitment is fairly strong because the manufacturers do currently provide farmers, contractors, independent third party repair shops with the ability to access the diagnostic tools, special tools, and you know access training, parts and any additional resources that they need to repair the equipment,” Schmeiser said.

However, a right to repair advocate says there are gaps in what the tools being provided can fix, and that in some instances these tools are still not being made available.

Nathan Proctor leads the Right to Repair campaign for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and he said his organization examined the repair tools agricultural OEM are providing.

“In February we looked at what repairs the repair tools would actually do and we found that there’s a whole set of repairs that they don’t let you do, and then we called dealerships to buy them or to see what their pricing was and they refused because they said they weren’t available,” Proctor said.

He said some agricultural machines are designed to be reliant on software and software tools that only the OEM’s can access.

“My sense is that it’s in their financial self-interest to have control over the service for the product,” Proctor said.

“Modern computing systems allow them to design the products such that they can control the tools to fix it, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. Unless we stand up they’ll keep doing it.”

Schmeiser said it is unsafe for third parties to have access to the software designed by OEM’s, because maximum road speeds for equipment could be altered, and braking and emission systems could be compromised.

The United Kingdom, European Union and Australia are considering or have enacted their own versions of Right to Repair laws in the past few months.

In Canada, Liberal MP Bryan May introduced Bill C-272, a private members bill that focuses on the digital lock provisions in Canada’s Copyright Act, which enables equipment manufacturers to restrict access to device firmware that is often needed to run diagnostics and perform repairs.

Bill C-272 went through the second reading in the House of Commons in the beginning of June and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

However, the bill will likely have to be reintroduced if a fall election is called.

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