The Right to Repair

Time is money on the farm, and it always seems that something breaks down right when you need it.  Manufacturers increasingly use copyrighted software on high-tech machines, and limit access and equipment for the do-it-yourself repairs. Sometimes the product’s warranty is only valid if repairs are done by a certified dealer.

Gay Gordon-Byrne is the executive director of The Repair Association. She says farmers rarely see the end user’s license agreement when they buy machinery.

"You agree that the whole machine is a licensed product, and that you will never touch it which makes no sense because it’s still a tractor. You paid good money for it, you have a title document that says it’s yours, and then all of a sudden, it’s not your," says Gordon-Byrne. "And this is what’s really unfair in terms of the legal process, and that’s where legislators can intervene and say no, that’s an unfair and deceptive trade practice, you can’t do that."

Currently there are no states with right-to-repair laws except for Massachusetts. Trade groups representing automakers and independent garages and retailers worked out an agreement to make the Massachusetts law a national standard. However, it doesn’t fix much for the ag industry.

"Starting in model year 2018, which is right now, people can fix their cars and they can go to the mechanic. And the mechanic under these agreements is supposed to have access to all the diagnostics, all the firmware, all the tools that they need to be able to make a repair, just like we’ve always made repairs," she says. "The really peculiar thing is that tractors aren’t included because it was essentially an industry agreement, and not statute."

Gordon-Byrne says what farmers can do is call their legislators and say, “fix this.”

If you want to get involved with right to repair legislation, click here to learn about the process.