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Biden backs ‘right to repair,’ from tractors to tech

President Biden will issue an executive order to expand competition in the agricultural sector and assure farmers of the right to repair increasingly complex tractors and other equipment.

President Biden will issue an executive order to expand competition in the agricultural sector and assure farmers of the right to repair increasingly complex tractors and other equipment, said the White House on Tuesday. The “right-to-repair” rules, to be written by the USDA and the FTC, were expected to include smartphones and other widely used devices.

Press secretary Jen Psaki pointed to USDA proposals to give farmers more leverage in dealing with meat processors as examples of Biden’s goals with the executive order. “The entire federal government’s mission,” she said, will be “to help increase opportunities for small and independent businesses to boost their earnings and increase options for consumers.”

The USDA “will engage in a series of rulemakings to increase competition in agricultural industries to boost farmers’ and ranchers’ earnings, fight back against abuses of power by giant agribusiness corporations, and give farmers the right to repair their own equipment how they like,” she said.

Right to repair is a hot issue among farmers who say they have to hack their own tractors when repairs are needed to avoid a trip to the dealer’s shop. Equipment makers say they block access to the computerized controls of their products to prevent accidental damage to them.

“The impending action from Biden would mark the first time a U.S. president has weighed in on the right to repair,” said The Drive, a news site. “The farming industry has been inadvertently spearheading right-to-repair efforts across the nation.”

Since mid-June, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that rulemaking will begin on a stricter standard for the Product of USA label on meat and on three interrelated fair-play rules in livestock marketing. They would make it easier for a producer to prove unfair treatment by a processor; revamp the use of so-called tournament systems by processors to determine pay for poultry farmers; and spell out what will be treated as unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences, and unjust prejudices by processors.

While the FTC would determine the scope of a right-to-repair regulation, Biden’s executive order “is expected to mention mobile phone manufacturers and Department of Defense contractors as possible areas for regulation,” reported Bloomberg. Tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft limit who can repair their products, “which consumer advocates say increases repair costs,” said the news agency.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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