By P.J. Huffstutter
CHICAGO (Reuters) -The American Farm Bureau Federation and machinery manufacturer Deere (NYSE:) & Co signed a memorandum of understanding on Sunday that ensures farmers have the right to repair their own farm equipment or go to an independent technician.
As the agriculture sector accelerates its adoption of technology, the reliance on high-tech machinery such as GPS-guided combines and tractors has become more common-place.
But equipment makers such as Deere have generally required customers to use their parts and service divisions for repairs and until recently, only allowed authorized dealers the means and tools to access the complex computerized systems of their tractors and other machinery.
The Farm Bureau’s memorandum of understanding with Deere “will ensure farmers everywhere are able to repair our own equipment,” Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall said, speaking at the federation’s convention in Puerto Rico.
“This will enable you and your independent mechanics to identify and fix problems,” he said. “You will have access to the diagnostic tools and information you need. And you’ll get it at a fair and reasonable price.”
Dave Gilmore, Deere’s vice president of ag and turf marketing, said the company looks forward to working with the farm group and “our customers in the months and years ahead to ensure farmers continue to have the tools and resources to diagnose, maintain and repair their equipment.”
The MOU aims to find a solution to the “right to repair” debate in the private sector, rather than through legislation or regulation, according to the document. It benefits farmers and independent repair facilities in the United States and Puerto Rico, for the “lawful operation and upkeep of Agricultural Equipment,” the MOU states.
The MOU states that, among other things, equipment owners and independent technicians cannot compromise any safety measures and protocols on the equipment; that Deere’s intellectual property, including its software, are protected from infringement; and no federal and state emissions control requirements can be compromised because of modifications made to the machinery.
The “right-to-repair” movement has gained steam as input costs have surged in recent years – as has the price of repairs.
For Deere and rival equipment manufacturers such as CNH Industrial (NYSE:) and AGCO Corp, repairing machinery has given them a solid boost for their parts and services business. Consumers have filed a slew of lawsuits against Deere over the issue, and the Biden administration has been pushing for more competition in the rural economy amid rising inflation.
Duvall said Farm Bureau officials will meet regularly with Deere to discuss “solutions to the challenges farmers are facing in repairing their equipment”, and said he hoped other farm equipment makers would take similar steps.