Right to Repair Movement

Published on: 14:31PM Jun 30, 2017

As a farmer, you wear many hats.  On this blog, we often discuss wearing the tax and administrative hats of your farm, however, a recent article from Time (click here) discusses the repairman or mechanic role many farmers take on as well.

As the article discusses, equipment manufacturers are producing ever increasing high-tech  tractors or other heavy machinery that often runs on copyright-protected software.  Instead of being able to diagnose problems themselves, then, farmers are forced to work with company-approved technicians that are often much more expensive.  Because of this, some farmers have come together in support of a so-called Right to Repair legislation that has been proposed in at least 12 states and would require equipment manufacturers to offer the diagnostic tools, manuals and other supplies that farmers need to fix their own machines.

Farm equipment manufacturers have their own arguments against this, however, the interesting piece with this is an unexpected opponent to this movement:  Apple. Apple argues the proposals could result in subpar repair work or make consumers vulnerable to hackers.

Maybe even more interesting with this is that the issue is cutting across party lines, with support from Republicans in agriculture-heavy states like Nebraska and pro-consumer Democrats in states like New Jersey. Given the large size of some of the companies against this movement, as the article points out, I am not sure we should expect any big changes anytime soon.  But, if the movement at least gets the conversation started and the ball rolling, it could force some companies to open up a little bit.  With many farms struggling with cash flow due to high input costs and low crop prices, any little bit of savings can help.