Right-to-Repair for tractors could play a role in 2020 election


If you are farming with modern technology on your operation, you understand the frustration when a code pops up that you can’t personally fix. The first thing you have to do is call your local dealership to see when they can send out a service truck to look at the code. Half the time, the code is nothing significant, but it will cost you a significant amount of money for an onsite visit. That is what the Right-to-Repair law is looking to correct.

In an already tight farm economy, farmers are looking for ways to make their hard-earned dollars go further. Farmers from both sides of the aisle have been calling for a Right-to-Repair law, either on the state or local level. The thought would be even if a few states where able to pass legislation, it would be too much of a hassle to adapt new technology for only a few states, eventually turning everything over to free access for repair. However, the tech industry is standing in the way.

Sen. Elizabeth Warrren, one of 18 Democratic hopefuls for the 202o election, has recently shown interest in the ag industry (admittedly, some have questioned how genuine her interest is). One of the most interesting aspects is her call for a Right-to-Repair law for ag equipment. Something that seems like it should be an automatic, is not the current situation. With many dealerships having their own software and firmware, it is often impossible to correct a code without their technology.  

Nebraska introduced a bill, the Fair Repair Act, in 2017. After a year and half, the bill was indefinitely postponed after representatives from big technology companies were flown in to speak during a hearing. Nebraska State Sen. Lydia Brasch, who introduced the bill, emphasized the bill was only after the diagnostic capability — nothing else.

The biggest questions are how big will this issue get on the national stage, will it generate a real and frank discussion, and will politicians’ stances on this issue be a factor in the 2020 elections?

Many mid-sized operations who are the fence of growing or updating their operation will end up buying older equipment so they can manually fix any problems that may arise. They still have the ability to repair their equipment without calling the dealership to bring in their laptop to review a code. There is something to be said about being able to get to the root of the problem on your own instead of having specific software locate the problem. It is even an issue for local repair shops who are capable of fixing an issue, but don’t have the ability to address the problem due to software and firmware complications. 

For an in depth look at the struggles and the path to Right-to-Repair, check out this video.

“It is really interesting these older tractors are still capable of going out and doing a day’s work. I wonder with all the technology we have in the newer tractors, if the same will be true of them when they are that same age.”

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