Farm Bureau, Deere sign pact aimed at ending right-to-repair dispute

MOLINE, Ill. — Equipment manufacturer Deere & Co. and the American Farm Bureau Federation have signed a memorandum of understanding that ensures farmers and ranchers have the right to repair their own farm equipment.

The memorandum, signed Sunday at the federation's convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, follows several years of discussions between the two sides, they said in a news release. 000803910

Farm Bureau, Deere sign pact aimed at ending right-to-repair dispute

Federation President Zippy Duvall said the agreement ”addresses a long-running issue for farmers and ranchers when it comes to accessing tools, information and resources, while protecting John Deere’s intellectual property rights and ensuring equipment safety.”

“A piece of equipment is a major investment. Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired, or to repair it themselves, to help control costs," Duvall said.

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The agreement “commits John Deere to ensuring farmers and independent repair facilities have access to many of the tools and software needed” to keep the equipment running, Duvall said.

David Gilmore, John Deere's senior vice president for farm and turf sales and marketing, said the agreement reaffirms the company's "longstanding commitment ... to ensure our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to make many repairs to their machines."

Deere commits to engaging with farmers and dealers to resolve issues when they arise and agrees to meet with the farm bureau federation at least twice per year to evaluate progress, the agreement said.

The agreement formalizes farmers’ access to diagnostic and repair codes and to operator, parts and service manuals and product guides, the news release said. It also ensures farmers will be able to purchase diagnostic tools directly from Deere and receive assistance from the manufacturer when ordering parts and products.

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Deere last March, responding to pressure from a growing "right-to-repair" movement, had said it would make available to customers expanded software that would allow them to do some work on their own. In some cases, farmers had complained the highly computerized computerized tractors, when encountering problems, would go into a "limp mode" that could only be deactivated with software available accessible by Deere factory technicians.

Deere had said such shutdowns were rare and that the limits on who could perform repairs were based on safety concerns, citing the considerable tonnage and complexity of some of its equipment. But the National Farmers Union filed an FTC complaint against Deere March 3, asking the agency to investigate "the company's abusive restrictions on tractor and other farm equipment repair." According to the complaint, which the Iowa Farmers Union joined, farmers sometimes wait in their fields for hours until Deere technicians arrive.

The farmers gained powerful allies, as well. President Joe Biden, as part of a sweeping executive order in July, encouraged the Federal Trade Commission to "limit powerful equipment manufacturers from restricting people’s ability to use independent repair shops or do DIY repairs."

Chad Hart, an economist at Iowa State University, said he sees the new memorandum of understanding as a “first step” between the two sides.

“This represents an ongoing negotiation,” Hart said, noting the agreement calls for the two to talk every six months.

“They expect fully they're going to have to make adjustments along the way,” he said.

Farm Bureau, Deere sign pact aimed at ending right-to-repair dispute

0006697471 The Associated Press contributed to this article.