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Farm mechanics win 'right to repair' John Deere farm equipment

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Mark Moran

(Iowa News Service) Tractor maker Deere and Company has reached a deal with the American Farm Bureau Federation to allow independent mechanics to work on John Deere brand farm equipment.

Until now, if a mechanic not certified by Deere touched the high-dollar gear, it could void the company warranty, much like cellphone companies which void your warranty if you or an "unauthorized party" fixes your phone. Some farm equipment can cost a million dollars or more.

Rep. J.D. Scholten, D-Sioux City, Iowa, said having to wait for a certified Deere mechanic at planting or harvest time, when repairs are most common, is costly to a farmer who needs to be in the fields. 

"So a farmer can't touch the machine legally," Scholten explained. "And is stuck in a backlog to get somebody to come out to their farm, so they can fix their machine, so they can have a harvest."

There are 85,000 farmers in Iowa, and hundreds of thousands more across the nation. While not all of them have John Deere equipment, those who do will now have more options to get it fixed. Right to repair measures are being addressed across the country, but so far the deals have been agreements stopping short of binding legislation.

Farmers have said limiting who they can hire to work on their equipment is anticompetitive and hurts their business. Scholten added farmers cannot be expected to thrive under such restrictions, and sees the agreement as critical, given the investments farmers make. 

"Can you imagine buying a million-dollar piece of equipment and not having the rights to fix it?" Scholten asked. "To me, that's absurd. Ultimately, I'm on the side of the farmers."

The Farm Bureau has said the agreement is just the beginning of addressing the right to repair issue. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in 2021 to limit anticompetitive practices, which advocates argued should apply in these cases. The issue could also be part of this year's Farm Bill.