Ag Right to Repair Needs to Go National

Colorado opens the US to tractor repair, but it's time to enshrine the right nationally.

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On Tuesday, Colorado’s governor Jared Polis, sitting in front of a large tractor parked in front of the Colorado State House, signed the nation’s first ever right to repair agricultural equipment into law.

“Farmers and ranchers can lose precious weeks and months when equipment repairs are stalled due to long turnaround times by manufacturers and dealers… This bill will change that.”

Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado

The bipartisan legislation, House Bill 23-1011 was passed overwhelmingly grants the owners of agricultural equipment access to the information, parts and software needed to carry out repairs on their equipment. It passed in the face of ferocious opposition from agricultural equipment makers including John Deere and will take effect beginning in 2024.

The signing was hailed by farming groups and repair advocates.

Rob Larew, President of the National Farmers Union, said “seeing a bill like this cross the finish line is a testament to the persistence of our members and the need for this issue to be addressed nationally.”

“For decades, if something you owned broke, you could fix it yourself, take it to an independent repair shop or go back to the dealer or manufacturer. Unfortunately, as more of our stuff, including agricultural equipment like tractors and combines, runs on software, manufacturers are able to lock us out, undermining the repair marketplace and leading to longer delays and inflated repair bills. Farmers should have the freedom to get their stuff fixed from whomever they trust. They’ll have that freedom when Governor Polis signs the bill.”

Danny Katz, the head of Colorado Public Interest Research Group (COPIRG)
Image via Rep. Ron Weinberg—co-sponsor of the Colorado Bill

The signing followed passage of the bill by the Colorado Senate by a 44-16 vote earlier this month and brings to three the number of states that have passed some form of right to repair legislation: Massachusetts, where voters adopted a ballot measure ensuring a right to repair automobiles in 2012. (They later expanded that bill to include vehicle telematics data in November 2020.) Colorado Governor Jared Polis last year signed into law a right to repair power wheelchairs. Then, late last year New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul signed an electronics right to repair bill into law, albeit a far weaker law than was passed by New York’s legislature earlier in 2022.

The passage of the bill into law marks a huge victory for farmers, who have long complained about onerous and oppressive restrictions that equipment makers have put on service and repair of agricultural equipment as equipment.

In the last two decades, a combination of greater reliance on software-driven features, always-on Internet connections and over broad anti-piracy laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have given manufacturers of all stripes the tools to all but lock out owners and independent repair professionals. Absent a right to repair, that leaves consumers (farmers, repair shop owners, and families) at the mercy of expensive and inconvenient authorized repair providers, and pricing that often pushes owners to upgrade rather than repair their equipment.

The focus now shifts to other states that are considering similar legislation. At last count, there were 10 states considering agricultural right to repair bills including Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont.

Other News

  • Antitrust lawsuit favors Apple: A ruling in a case between Apple and Epic Games is further cementing the company’s market power as it maintains the status quo of control over its devices and the App Store. Though optimists are happy of the piece of the decision freeing iOS developers to direct users to alternative payment systems.
  • Eight new sponsors for federal auto repair legislation: A group of bipartisan co-sponsors of the REPAIR Act (H.R. 906) that was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February has grown. In addition to original sponsor Representative Neal Dunn (R-FL), and co-sponsors Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Warren Davidson (R-OH), and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA), eight additional members have signed on in support of the REPAIR Act. They are: Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Brittany Pettersen (D-CO), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Ann Kuster (D-NH), and Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL).
  • Research finds discarded routers contain sensitive data: Opponents of right to repair laws often cite data security as a reason – arguing (without proof) that giving independent repair pros access to devices to fix will risk exposing sensitive data. In the meantime, there’s a silent epidemic of data leaks that nobody seems particularly concerned with or motivated to address. Namely: residual data on discarded and recycled hardware. In a recent survey by ESET, a security software company, 16 used routers purchased by the company were analyzed. Nine still held sensitive corporate data on them. Crazy idea: maybe OEMs can make it easier to efficiently wipe their hardware before it is resold or taken out of use?
  • Functional tech trashed to be recycled: 45% of electrical tech tested at one recycling center still functioned according to the UK-based Restart Project, or required only minor repairs. It’s part of a wider problem that could mean more than 30,000 small electrical and electronic products end up being wasted in recycling skips at UK household waste and recycling center every week, the charity said. Restart has called for efforts to filter and divert products for reuse to become mandatory.
  • Disposing electronics can happen many ways: Responsibly parting with old electronics and provides various options for doing so, including using devices for longer, passing them on to others, repairing or refurbishing them, selling or trading them, donating to worthy causes, and researching local recycling programs and facilities. It highlights the growing issue of electronic waste and encourages individuals to make eco-friendly choices to reduce the negative impact on the environment.
  • Sustainability costs extra, but it shouldn’t: Cost of living hinders Gen Z and Millennials from shopping sustainably, according to a survey by Untold Insights found that 96% of respondents felt unable to make eco-conscious purchasing decisions due to high costs.