Right to repair law makes progress
On Oct. 24, the White House convened with federal and state officials, small business owners and private sector leaders to discuss the importance of the right to repair.
“The right to repair is the right to fix something an individual owns when it breaks, either by themselves or by taking it to an independent repair shop,” states a White House press release. “By giving consumers more choices on where and how to get their devices fixed, right to repair lowers costs, makes it easier to fix the things you own and increases competition.”
A report released earlier this year by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund estimates U.S. farmers lose $3 billion to tractor downtime and pay an additional $1.2 billion in excess repair costs each year.
President Biden has endorsed the right to repair in his Executive Order on Promoting Competition, and in April 2023, Colorado passed the nation’s first right to repair law for agricultural equipment.
Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) signed the Consumer Right to Repair Agriculture Equipment Act, making Colorado the first state to ensure farmers can fix their own equipment under the right to repair law, which requires manufacturers to provide the necessary manuals, tools, parts and software.
Lawmakers from other states have introduced similar legislation, including in Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas and Vermont.
White House discussion
As advocates continue to push for the right to repair, similar bills in state legislatures are getting attention from the White House.
During the White House meeting, National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard highlighted the importance of the right to repair.
“For everything from smartphones to wheelchairs, cars and farm equipment, manufacturers too often make it difficult to access spare parts, manuals and tools necessary to make fixes. Consumers are compelled to go back to the dealer and pay the dealer’s price or to discard and replace the device entirely,” she stated.
“This not only costs consumers money, but it prevents independent repair shops from competing for business and creates unnecessary waste by shortening the life span of devices,” she continued.
Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), explained how the right to repair extends the lifecycle of products, reduces waste and supports the EPA’s efforts to promote the repairability of farm equipment.
“The basic right to get a product repaired can save farmers thousands of dollars when their tractor breaks down and creates opportunities for small independent repair shops to thrive,” he stated.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan explained, “The benefits of competition in repair markets to lower costs and increases opportunities for small businesses. It also highlights FTC’s bipartisan, unanimous enforcement policy and successful cases which make it easier to repair everything from grills to motorcycles.”
Colorado farmer testifies
Along with White House officials, representatives from Apple, the Federal Trade Commission and other prominent advocates, including District One Director for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Danny Wood, were invited to participate in the panel.
Woods discussed personal challenges he faced when trying to repair his brand-new combine during harvest.
“We went to harvest wheat with it, and a message came up on the monitor saying there was a problem with the diesel exhaust fluid system,” Wood told the White House panel. “We called the servicing dealer and were told it would be five days before they could come look at it. When harvesting your crop is your sole source of income, this is completely unacceptable.”
Wood said, “Once the technician finally arrived, he found it was a cracked set of tubes keeping the engine from running properly.”
“I asked if he had the tubes to replace and repair the machine, and he told me no,” Wood continued. “I asked if they had the tubes at their dealership and was told no. I asked if he could come back when the tubes came in and install them, which would take four more days, and he said no.”
“He instructed me to reschedule another service call after the tubes came in, adding another five days – a total of 14 days the combine would have been sitting,” he shared.
Wood added, “I risked losing nearly $80,000 if the crop were left unharvested, so I made the decision to repair the combine myself.”
Wood further explained he decided to buy and install the tubes himself, which risked warranty on the machine.
“Farmers are not people who like to rely on others. We like to fix things ourselves. The right to repair will finally allow us to do this and save farmers thousands of dollars and valuable time,” he concluded.
Woods testified before the Colorado House and Senate agriculture committees in support of the Colorado right to repair law.
The momentum continues
A day later, the Michigan House Committee on Agriculture advanced House Bill 4673, Right to repair measure for farm equipment.
According to an AGDAILY report published on Oct. 25, this achievement was made possible through the dedicated support and active involvement of both the Michigan Farmers Union and the National Farmers Union (NFU) advocating for the bill.
“Collaboration on the bill’s development affirmed the ongoing commitment to champion its passage,” Michigan Farmers Union President Bob Thompson stated.
Thompson also extended gratitude to Agriculture Committee Chair Reggie Miller for his steadfast support of farmers’ right to repair their farm equipment.
The NFU remains steadfast in its advocacy for equitable and comprehensive access to equipment repair for family farmers not only in Michigan but also across the nation.
American Farm Bureau Federation has been accelerating the momentum in 2023 by signing memorandums of understanding with John Deere, CNH Industrial Brands, including Case IH and New Holland, AGCO, Kubota and CLAAS of America to promote right to repair efforts.
Agricultural equipment is designed to restrict repair access, locking out farmers and independent mechanics and forcing them to turn to expensive dealer technicians for repairs.
Data analysis from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows repair costs for farmers growing corn and soybean have nearly doubled over the past two decades.
Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.