American Farm Bureau Reaffirms Support for Right to Repair

Largest farmer organization in U.S. passes a resolution to support their members’ ability to fix their own farm equipment

The American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents almost 6 million member families across the United States, voted decisively Tuesday to endorse their members’ ability to fix their equipment when it breaks. In doing so, they set clear guidelines on what kind of policy they think will solve the problem.

“This resolution is important. It sets the expectation for farmers to have all necessary repair tools, the same as the dealership has,” said PennPIRG Campaign Associate Emma Horst-Martz. “The Farm Bureau has been a staunch supporter of the Right to Repair and this vote reinforces the importance of this issue to their membership.”  

The national vote comes on the heels of the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s nearly unanimous vote in favor of Right to Repair last month, as well as a vote to send a resolution to the national conference. The American Farm Bureau vote puts support for Right to Repair in its official policy recommendations.

“Farmers have been fixing their equipment for generations and need to continue to do so to remain profitable,” said Willie Cade, a advocate and Farm Bureau member. “Today’s vote is a national demonstration of the need for a solution that helps everyone involved.”

PennPIRG’s Right to Repair campaign advocates for policy changes to provide consumers with the parts, tools and information they need to fix their devices -- whether farm equipment, consumer technology, household appliances, or hospital equipment -- when they break.

Farmers and the fix

A successful crop requires adhering to tight planting and harvesting windows. When a farmer’s equipment goes down, he or she needs it back up and running as soon as possible.

But as agricultural equipment manufacturers have interwoven software into the everyday functions of machines such as tractors or combines, farmers need new digital tools to diagnose, calibrate or restart those vehicles. Settings that used to be adjusted by a crank or knob now involve electrical systems that have problems that require electrical tools to fix. However, manufacturers do not provide farmers with the digital tools, specifically the diagnostic software, needed to fix equipment when it breaks.

Diagnostic software is a particular problem for farmers. Only manufacturers, dealerships, and affiliated field technicians have access to it, locking farmers out of the repair process.

Industry repair options not enough

Manufacturers have proposed alternatives to Right to Repair legislation, in which they would provide certain parts and information to farmers. Tuesday’s vote signaled that farmers do not view these proposals -- which some have described as halfway measures and stall tactics -- as a realistic solution to their problems.

Instead, the Farm Bureau approved specific guidelines for the policy they will accept. We have yet to get the official language, and will update this blog as we learn more. We do know that farmers called for changes, “that guarantee the farmer/owner and an independent repair technician access to that information, parts and tools needed to make repairs, which includes the ability to reset the operating system.”

The language voted on was likely very similar to the resolution the Nebraska Farmers Bureau passed last month.

Right to Repair: Nebraska Farm Bureau supports the implementation of comprehensive right to repair legislation OR a negotiated written agreement between ag producers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This legislation or agreement must: 

1. Be enforceable. 

2. Guarantee farmer/owner and independent repair technician access to the information, parts, and tools that are available to dealerships, acknowledging pricing structures may be different for farmer/owners vs. independent repair technicians. The diagnostic and repair information and tools must be fairly priced and delivered in a timely manner.

3. Include ALL OEM equipment, regardless of age, model, or years in use at the time of the effective date. 

4. Differentiate between repair (the restoration of hardware to its original intended function) and illegal modification. 

5. Not require any agricultural equipment owner to agree to any contract which removes existing rights. 

Furthermore, Nebraska Farm Bureau would support an agreement which grants farmer/owners and independent repair technicians’ access, similar to the agreement reached in the automobile & light truck owners’ industries. Absent progress on an agreement by January 1, 2021 Nebraska Farm Bureau would consider supporting legislation achieving the same.

These specifications come at a time in which industry is pressuring farmers to accept their “R2R solutions.” Farmers are making it clear that those “solutions” are not good enough.

“We need a good faith conversation and the support of our legislators to guarantee farmers will have what they need to fix their equipment,” Cade said. “Farmers are speaking up -- now it’s time for legislatures to listen.”

As Representative Austin Davis prepares to introduce the Digital Fair Repair Act here in Pennsylvania, legislators’ eyes will be on the PA Farm Bureau. The group represents more than 62,000 farmers across the state, so their support for the issue would send a clear message to our state legislators. Pennsylvanians want the right to repair their stuff and farmers have a particularly high stake in this issue. The PA Farm Bureau could be the hero in our campaign for Fair Repair in PA.

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