The Van Trump Report

What John Deere’s “Right to Repair” Agreement Means for US Farmers

At long last, farmers and ranchers have gained the “right-to-repair” their expensive John Deere equipment thanks to an agreement with the American Farm Bureau Federation. The two parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that requires John Deere to provide farmers and independent repair facilities with access to the company’s tools, software, and documentation to make repairs to the company’s equipment. Supporters of the right-to-repair movement say its a step in the right direction but are skeptical about unforeseen limitations. 

The MOU between John Deere and the AFBF sets out John Deere’s obligations, which include providing access to its diagnostic tools, manuals, product service demos, training, and seminars to farmers, including their staff or independent technicians, on “fair and reasonable terms.” The document defines equipment as the typical tractor, combine, or other harvesting equipment, as well as “other off-road vehicles primarily designed for use in an agricultural operation.”

The MOU also assures John Deere that its intellectual property (IP) will be protected from infringement and that safety controls, including emissions equipment, cannot be compromised or disabled. Additionally, AFBF agrees to refrain from supporting right-to-repair legislation at the state or federal level. If any right-to-repair legislation passes, the AFBF and John Deere can withdraw from the agreement. Under the agreement, John Deere and AFBF will meet at least semi-annually” to evaluate the deal and discuss new developments in the right-to-repair movement.

Denying farmers access to software, tools, and parts forces farmers to depend on manufacturers when the equipment breaks down. The company put software locks on its equipment that only authorized dealers can disable. This in turn prevents equipment owners and independent repair shops from diagnosing and fixing problems. This led farm labor advocacy groups to file a complaint to the US Federal Trade Commission last year, claiming that Deere unlawfully refused to provide the software and technical data necessary to repair its machinery.

John Deere products account for more than 40% of the market share for tractors and other agricultural machinery in the United States. “A piece of equipment is a major investment,” said AFBF president Zippy Duvall in a statement. “Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired, or to repair it themselves, to help control costs.”

John Deere said the prices for its diagnostic tools vary. The company’s database of technical manuals listed prices as high as $3,160 for one year of access. Some believe that giving farmers and third party repairers access to its repair tools could end up being a significant revenue stream for John Deere.

Kevin O’Reilly, the Right to Repair Campaign Director for the Public Interest Research Groups, says the MOU could be a significant step forward if “Deere truly provides farmers and independent mechanics with the same repair materials that its dealers have.” He cautions, however, that the MOU “contains limited enforcement mechanisms and the best aspects of the agreement could get lost in the legalese.”  

John Deere is not alone in keeping a tight leash on who gains access to repair instructions, parts, and tools for their hardware. The right-to-repair movement is a broad issue that seeks to reign in tech company monopolies on the repair of their products. Currently only New York and Colorado have right-to-repair laws, and Colorado’s actually only applies to powered wheelchairs. President Biden signed an executive order in 2021 calling on the Federal Trade Commission to draw up a countrywide policy allowing customers to repair their own products, particularly in the technology and agriculture sectors.

The full MOU between AFBF and John Deere, which is effective as of January 8, 2023, can be found HERE.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *