John Deere relents, says farmers can fix their own tractors after all

After a lengthy argument, a right to repair comes to agricultural machinery.

Enlarge / Modern farm equipment is packed full of software, and repairs have become a real pain.

Farmers now have the right to repair their John Deere tractors themselves or through independent third parties, ending a lengthy battle with the agricultural machinery company. On Saturday, John Deere and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining the company’s responsibilities to provide diagnostic tools and software outside of the company’s official authorized repair centers.

The right for consumers to repair their own property, be that cars, electronics, or farm equipment, has been growing over the past few years, with some states taking action to enshrine the right for their residents. Farmers have been at odds with John Deere since 2016, when the company changed its end-user license to require that any repairs involving embedded software be carried out only by authorized technicians. Like cars, modern tractors are now packed full of complicated electronics, and the restrictions imposed upon farmers did not go down well.

In July 2021, US President Joe Biden weighed in with an executive order that specifically mentioned this problem. Among other actions, the order called on the Federal Trade Commission to prevent “unfair anticompetitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.”

President Biden brought the issue up again six months later, saying that “if you own a product, from a smartphone to a tractor, you don’t have the freedom to choose how or where to repair that item you purchased.”

Now, John Deere and the AFBF have acted in advance of any federal rulemaking.

“AFBF is pleased to announce this agreement with John Deere,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It addresses a long-running issue for farmers and ranchers when it comes to accessing tools, information, and resources, while protecting John Deere’s intellectual property rights and ensuring equipment safety. A piece of equipment is a major investment. Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired, or to repair it themselves, to help control costs. The MOU commits John Deere to ensuring farmers and independent repair facilities have access to many of the tools and software needed to grow the food, fuel, and fiber America’s families rely on.”

“This agreement reaffirms the longstanding commitment Deere has made to ensure our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to make many repairs to their machines. We look forward to working alongside the American Farm Bureau 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,” said David Gilmore, SVP of ag and turf sales and marketing at John Deere.

The MOU between John Deere and the AFBF sets out John Deere’s obligations, which include providing access to its diagnostic tools, manuals, product service demos, training, and seminars to farmers, including their staff or independent technicians, on “fair and reasonable terms.” It also assures John Deere that its IP will be protected from infringement and that safety controls, including emissions equipment, cannot be compromised or disabled.

The agreement also sets up a mechanism to handle disagreements between farmers and John Deere, and the AFBF will meet with the company twice a year to ensure things run smoothly.

(Source)

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