You Have a Clear Right to Repair ... Right?

October 10, 2016 03:16 PM

Some controversial new laws might soon come into play

If a part on your tractor or other piece of farm equipment breaks, you should have the right to fix it yourself. Seems like a no-brainer … right? Not so fast—the issue is more controversial than you might realize.

Farmers in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York might be the first to be affected. These four states are considering legislation centering around whether a farmer has the right to repair his or her equipment, or whether farm machinery needs to be repaired only by a certified technician. That has upset some farmers in these areas, including Waverly, Neb., farmer Mick Minchow.

“I want it to be my call,” Minchow recently told the Associated Press. “I don’t want to make two trips to the service department—one to diagnose it and one to fix it.”

On the other hand, equipment manufacturers are worried undue tinkering exposes them to copyright, trade secrets or other contractual liabilities. Also, farmers who buy used equipment could be in for a bad surprise if they find the previous owner has made software changes they don’t like.

On a recent edition of “AgriTalk” radio, several industry experts talked through the pros and cons of these so-called “fair repair” legislations.

Bernie Bernhard, technical and safety services manager with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, says dealers and original equipment manufacturers (OEM) often encourage farmers to work on their own equipment, but he does note a few exceptions.

“It’s narrowed down to the copyright laws that involve emissions and safety, liability and risk concerns,” he says. “[In these instances], the farmer needs to be trained and educated about what he’s doing because you don’t want just anyone with a crescent wrench trying to resolve some of these problems. That’s why dealers and OEMs have trained technicians.” 

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Spell Check

Western, NE
10/11/2016 10:56 AM

  I can tell you that if I lose the right to work on a piece of machinery that I have bought, I'll start a recall campaign to throw out every Nebraska legislator on their ass. And if I'm considering a new piece of machinery, if I don't have the right to work on it if I have to shell out $200k or more for it, it is NOT going to get bought. This is the crap we get when manufacturers are struggling? The local JD dealership has found the level of their own stupidity with the rate of shop repair. No farmer is taking their equipment to them. Unless there is a major repair that forces a farmer to the shop, their "technicians" are standing around with nothing to do. They've already begun layoffs. Smartly with managers to begin with. It's MY choice if I decide to screw up my new piece of machinery.

McLean, NE
10/12/2016 09:04 PM

  I feel like most growers are not going to mess with the machine settings; OEMs are just afraid of the small minority of armchair engineers or coders who can reverse engineer modifications that actually allow tractors to do what they are capable of rather than the "scaled back" versions of software that manufacturers release to dealers. (They want to keep people coming back for more rather than building something so well that it never breaks or lasts for several decades i.e. the JD 4020) All in all though I agree with you Zorcon, if you pay for a 200k tractor and you want to mess around with its softwares that should be your call, its your baby if it gets screwed up. No more of this crap though where your dealer has to activate an electronic module before you can use it, if a part breaks you should be able to change it out yourself, plain and simple.


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