The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and John Deere have entered a memorandum of understanding (pdf) this week that will allow farmers to repair their own tractors purchased from the equipment manufacturing company.
According to AFBF, the agreement addresses an issue that has been ongoing between farmers and the company in relation to farmers’ access to software and tools protected by intellectual property rights that prevented farmers from fixing their own equipment.
Instead, they were required to use authorized parts and service facilities.
“A piece of equipment is a major investment,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a press release. “Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired, or to repair it themselves, to help control costs. The agreement commits John Deere to ensure 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.”
According to AFBF, the agreement authorizes a farmer’s access to diagnostic and repair codes, manuals, and product guides that have been previously protected by copyright laws.
Effective Jan. 8, 2023, farmers and independent staff and technicians assisting the farmer may have electronic access “on Fair and Reasonable terms” to John Deere’s customer service software called ADVISOR, “which is available for Farmers and Independent Repair Facilities to purchase from Authorized Repair Facilities or online directly from Manufacturer in the United States.”
However, the memorandum states, the agreement shouldn’t be interpreted as requiring the manufacturer to disclose confidential information or divulge trade secrets.
In addition, the agreement doesn’t allow for the override of safety features, emission controls, or the adjustment of power levels.
Manufacturing companies like John Deere and Apple Inc. have a history of limiting where consumers can get repairs because of copyright laws over software found in all modern electronic devices, including machinery, Ars Technica reported.
To override these copyright restrictions that prevent user repair, many states have attempted to pass “Right to Repair” laws.
According to Nathan Proctor with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), in 2022, right-to-repair laws were discussed and passed in at least one chamber by several state legislatures.
“Year after year, we are seeing bills go farther as opposition arguments fall apart under scrutiny,” Proctor wrote for PIRG.
Colorado passed a law giving people who use wheelchairs access to the parts, tools, and diagnostics needed for repairs, Proctor said.
In addition, Congress has held several right-to-repair hearings before its Small Business and Rules committees, he said.
New York became the first state to require digital equipment manufacturers to allow independent repair providers to have access to diagnostic information after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Digital Fair Repair Act at the end of 2022.
The law goes into effect on July 1.
“This legislation will empower consumers with better options to repair their devices, thereby maximizing the lifespan of their devices, saving money, and reducing electronic waste,” Hochul said in a statement.
Proctor said passing the bill is a significant step with company lobbyists worth up to $10 trillion petitioning against it.
“People should be able to fix their stuff,” he wrote. “That’s what is needed to cut electronic waste and pollution from our electronics. That’s what will save consumers money and restore our control of our gadgets rather than still having to rely on the manufacturer. In 2022, we made more strides toward a world where product owners and repair shops can get what they need to fix devices.”