Deere offers farmers the ability to repair their own tractors | CNN Business
US farmers will have the right to repair John Deere tractors and other farm equipment without having to use the manufacturer’s own parts and facilities, under an agreement the company signed Sunday with farm industry representatives .
The settlement marks a major victory for farmer and consumer advocacy groups, which have complained for years about the repair limitations Deere has placed on its products and technology, from software locks to requirements to use official dealers for repairs. The restrictions have inspired multiple lawsuits against the company and created a high-profile public relations headache in which farmers have accused Deere of interfering with their ability to plant and harvest crops in a timely manner.
The memorandum of understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) gives farmers access to the same Deere documentation, data and diagnostic tools used by the company’s authorized repair shops. Farmers will be able to diagnose and fix broken equipment on their own or by choosing an independent repair facility, which will also have access to its own tools and data under the same fair and reasonable conditions, according to the MOU.
In exchange, AFBF officials agreed not to push for state or federal legislation promoting the right of users to repair products they had rented or purchased. Under the MOU, farmers and third-party repair shops cannot disable onboard security features or use their access to Deere technology to illegally copy the software that controls their equipment.
The voluntary agreement safeguards Deere’s intellectual property while giving farmers more control over their own business, said Zippy Duvall, AFBF president.
“A team is a significant investment,” Duvall said in a statement. “Farmers should have the freedom to choose where the equipment is repaired, or repair it themselves, to help control costs.”
John Deere’s vice president of agricultural and turf marketing, David Gilmore, said in a statement that the deal reflects Deere’s “longstanding commitment to ensuring our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to make many repairs to their machines. We look forward to working with the American Farm Bureau and our customers in the coming months and years to ensure that farmers continue to have the tools and resources to diagnose, maintain and repair their teams”.
The memorandum of understanding aims to resolve long-standing claims that the requirement to use authorized dealers can interfere with agricultural production, harm farmers and disrupt the food supply chain. Farmers have said that having to wait days or weeks for an official repair can undermine planting and harvesting schedules. Some advocacy groups have blamed the delays on the consolidation of tractor dealers, most of which are controlled by Deere, according to the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).
“There is one John Deere dealership chain for every 12,018 farms and every 5.3 million acres of American farmland,” the group wrote in a report last year.
The agricultural industry has become a battleground in the broader so-called right-to-repair movement, which focuses not only on farm equipment but also on consumer electronics such as smartphones smartphones, tablets, computers and even household appliances. A notable target of complaints has been Apple, which is known for shipping ultra-thin devices sealed with special glue or with non-removable components such as batteries and memory chips. Apple has said for years that customers should rely on authorized repair facilities, citing the potential dangers to users and their devices if they try to do their own maintenance.
The issue has caught the attention of the Biden administration: In 2021, a White House executive order asked the Federal Trade Commission to develop new rules to promote the right to repair. In response, the FTC promised to “eliminate” the unlawful remedy restrictions. Months later, Apple announced a self-service repair program that allowed users to fix their own iPhones and Macs using tools and parts made by Apple.
Last month, New York became the first US state to enact a right-to-redress law. Since 2000, US lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen bills dealing with the right to repair, focusing on auto, farm equipment and medical device repairs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
With Sunday’s MOU, however, the tension between farmers and Deere has been resolved without the need for regulation or legislation, according to the agreement.