[Author: Will Rogers, 09.2016 | Keywords: Right to Repair]
Over the past several weeks, I have spent dozens of hours touring the state, performing outreach and education to federal and state lawmakers, equipment dealers, agricultural journalists and farmers about our concerns regarding the Right to Repair issue. One of the biggest challenges we face as an industry is the amount of misinformation Right to Repair advocates have disseminated regarding the ability of farmers and independent repair shops to fix and service equipment.
In just the past six months, coverage on this issue has appeared in such media as NBC news, Bloomberg, Lincoln Journal Star, The Des Moines Register, Modern Farmer and dozens of other publications, all claiming that farmers don’t have the right to repair their own equipment. This propaganda is perpetuated by the Right to Repair advocates and is not only misleading, it is completely false. As it stands right now, farmers have the “right” to work on the majority of the systems that operate their farm equipment and can choose to have their equipment serviced by a third party repair facility.
During our conversations with lawmakers and journalists we have shared information from manufacturers that clearly illustrates the ability of farmers to repair their own equipment. In addition, we discussed dealer concerns regarding the federal laws governing Tier 4 Engine Systems and product liability as it pertains to the modification of safety and performance.
One of most essential arguments I have stressed is what might happen if farmers and third party repair facilities gain the ability to access the equipment operating systems and make changes to the software. These operating systems are proprietary and are subject to Federal copyright laws. Not only do manufacturers have a tremendous amount of money invested in these systems, dealers can be held liable if they do not comply with EPA regulations regarding Tier 4 engine emission standards. Essentially, a dealer (through no fault of their own) could be fined by the EPA if a farmer or third party repair facility disables the Tier 4 Engine exhaust system and doesn’t return the equipment to its original and compliant settings.
One of the biggest challenges we face as an industry is the amount of misinformation Right to Repair advocates have disseminated regarding the
ability of farmers and independent repair shops to fix and service equipment.
In less than 10 years, most large farm tractors and combines will be produced with telematics and auto steering systems. In less than a generation, most self-propelled farm equipment will be autonomous. From a product liability standpoint, not only will dealers need to be able to service this equipment, they will also be exposed to areas of liability never imagined before. Knowing who has access to the operating system and who can make changes to software may determine millions of dollars in liability if/when an accident occurs with this equipment.
As I have explained to several state lawmakers, dealers consider farmers to be their partners. When farmers are successful, dealers are successful. When farmers suffer, dealers suffer with them. There is no daylight between farmers and dealers when it comes to ensuring that dealers take care of farmers. However, the days of bailing wire and duct tape are over.
Farmers invest in some of the most highly-technical equipment produced, costing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. This investment requires highly-skilled individuals who have been trained and tested to make sure this equipment performs correctly and efficiently. Dealers are the trusted resource farmers rely on to ensure that their equipment is being properly serviced.
While farmers will be able to continue servicing and repairing their own equipment, dealers need to stand up for the truth and make their voices heard.
About the Author
For more than nine years, Will has advocated for our members on both the state and national legislative fronts and has led I-NEDA’s educational efforts. In his free time, Will enjoys “dabbling” in politics, gardening, spending time with his wife and daughter, and managing his ever-growing collections (U.S. postage stamps, beer cans, comic books…).