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.”