Updated Dec. 5, 2022
Dealers Testify in Missouri Over Right to Repair
The following is a transcript from testimony given by Paul Combs, president of Baker Implement, and Tom Nobbe, partner with Sydenstricker Nobbe Partners, during a Missouri Joint Committee on Agriculture Hearing from Oct. 5, 2022.
Paul Combs: Thank you all for taking time to hear from me. I'm Paul Combs, the president of Baker Implement Company. I'm a resident of Kennett, Missouri and our company has been in business since 1938. We have 11 locations, seven of which are in Missouri. And I'm the fourth, of five generations that have worked in our business. We've got 18 stockholders that are all members of our extended family.
My family's also involved in production agriculture. We have farms that grow cotton, rice, corn, soybeans and peanuts. So, I'm familiar with the farmer's side of the equation as well. And, we employ about 180 folks in our dealerships, most of them in Missouri because that's where most of our stores are. And the brands that we sell are Case IH, and Kubota, are the two flagship brands. And we sell some other specialty brands from other vendors from all different parts of the world.
Tom Nobbe: I'm Tom Nobbe, a partner in Sydenstricker Nobbe Partners, which is owned by the Sydenstricker and Nobbe families. We're a 27 store, John Deere ag and turf dealer in southern Illinois and Missouri. 18 of our stores are in Missouri, and nine stores are in Illinois. Our business started in 1907 in Waterloo, Illinois. In 1945 in Mexico, Missouri. Both of our families are in the fourth generation, we have 707 employees, 509 of which reside right here in Missouri. I really appreciate the committee allowing me to testify in opposition to right to repair and help you understand it as far as a dealer perspective.
Our dealership has been providing for quite a few years now. Everything a customer or independent repair person needs to perform the repairs on his own. That includes operator's manuals, tech manuals, diagnostic manuals, parts, expert advice, as well as all the electronic service diagnostic equipment that they need to do that.
So, that's why we don't really think the bill is necessary because I think we've already, the industry has already given everything that a customer needs. We believe it is their decision to repair their own equipment or have somebody else repair it. Don't necessarily have to come to us. Over half of our parts are actually sold that don't go through our shop. So somebody else is doing those repairs.
Paul Combs: And that it gets to a business model. We keep about 14 million worth of parts inventory on hand. Carrying cost of, that's north of $750,000 a year. Had one example this past weekend where a customer's combine went down with a major that needed a major repair. The parts component only of the repair was $14,000. Now we loaned the customer combine, we had all those $14,000 worth of parts on our shelves at one of our stores. We had to move parts from a couple of different stores, but we were able to get the customer going in a couple of days.
And a lot of the Right to Repair legislation mandates that the independent shops have the availability of the parts at the same price from the manufacturers. And that would destroy that model of us being able to keep a customer going in a short period of time by having the parts on hand. I mean our goal is to keep our customers going. And we also do business with independent repair shops. And so, we have no desire to shut them out of the business. We're just, what we don't want is the right for somebody to modify something that causes it to be out of specs, or the complaint we get all the time is the emissions problems.
I mean when the emissions, when engines became more emission compliant, it added complexities and it added sensors and those things will shut a piece of equipment down. But that's federal law, and there's not a lot that I as a dealer or Tom as a dealer or my family as farmers can do about it, unfortunately.
Tom Nobbe: A little bit on the technician side. Everybody realizes the workforce shortage that we have, especially in the service industry. We have the same thing with technicians. But I got to tell you, there's a lot of emphasis placed in our industry, association, manufacturers to try to develop technicians so we have enough technicians. Our company could use 50 more technicians across our stores.
But, I want to tell you one of the things we're doing, and every dealer's doing some different things, but we actually purchased a facility in Westville, Missouri. We started our own technician program. We will continue to supply and support schools like Missouri, the Tech School of Missouri, as well as some in other states. But, what we found is these young kids coming out of school didn't really want to have all the expenditure going to college. They didn't want to go through general studies. They wanted to get in there as quick as they could and get out and be a mechanic. So we figured out a way.
We hired three instructors, they wrote the curriculum, they got certification with Deere and we're teaching them in a nine month period, and then they'll be out, of course they'll be reoccurring training. But, we've actually got 25 kids out of this shoot, really a big surprise that started September 1st, program going extremely well. We got 15 more kids for next year. So we think that might be our way to fill that technician pipeline.
But, the other thing I wanted to talk a little bit about, because there's kind of underlying reason and maybe a little bit about what's going on with AG. There's some people that are afraid of dealer consolidation. They kind of think manufacturers are causing dealer consolidation. And to be really honest with you, I think manufacturers are getting bad rap. We, as dealers are making that decision and that decision's based on serving our customers. That's what this is all about.
We feel like we have to get to a certain scale to be able to give them the technology advancements, and be able to support all that technology to help them fully utilize that to make them more productive, less input costs, especially now we got high commodity prices, high input costs. The more they can reduce those costs and be more efficient and grow more crops, the better off everybody's going to be. So, that's why we have to have people on staff. We have to have equipment, and technology to be able to support those customers.
The other thing is small farmers, I just want you all to be aware that small farmers are extremely important to us as well. That's a diversification factor for us that we have both things going, but it's also important, we have performance bonus dollars we get from John Deere at the end of the year based on the way we perform. And those dollars are all linked together. So you could be really, really good at selling all the big combines and the big tractors, but if you don't support the small tractors, the hay equipment, and the midsize tractors, you're not going to get your payout at the year end.
Paul Combs: Similar structure with Case IH and Kubota, the brands, the other brands we represent.
Speaker 1: Well I appreciate the testimony and this just goes to show, especially with your inventory of 14 million dollars, it shows that this is a different industry than what happened in the automobile sector. And that's why the bills have to be different, because the industries are different. And that's just one very important aspect of it. Any questions or discussions?
Ken Hayden: This is directed to Tom, you're telling me that your merger was not influenced by John Deere saying you either get big or you sell?
Tom Nobbe: No, no, it wasn't Ken. Matter of fact, we had a rough time convincing John Deere to allow us to do what we did. I think now, going back, they'd say it was a good move, but that was honestly, that was all customer driven. And I can really say now that I'm starting to hear the comments from our customers when we hold the clinics that we put on, I have people coming up to me saying, now I understand why you had to do what you did to be able to support us, with our technology needs.
And, they're getting incredible, there's a lot of emphasis on technology and we got to be able to support that. So no, John Deere was not in the beginning, it took about six, eight months that we got finally got them convinced of that. So they weren't, not in our case, they weren't. The other thing I might tell you...
Ken Hayden: The reason I ask that is not the info that we have in our neighborhood. So that's why I'm asking you specific.
Tom Nobbe: We probably need to clarify that for sure.
Ken Hayden: I mean that is not, that isn't direct, but that isn't the buzz that is in our neighborhood. And, most of this is actually not Right to Repair, is a right, its anti consolidation, antitrust discussion. Is driving this whole thing, in my opinion, it's not really Right to Repair as much, it is antitrust.
Tom Nobbe: I agree and that's why I brought that up. So the other thing is we're not going to have as many locations or as much competition. There's plenty of competition, believe you. I really believe as a dealership, we are more competitive today than we were separate, because we have financial resource to be able to support some of them deals, that quite honestly would've scared us to death if we were doing it on our own.
Paul Combs: I can testify to that, he just took one of our bigger customers at Case.
I mean the farmer, if you don't take care of the customer, they can go to another Case IH dealer, they can go to another brand. And we see it all the time. And us, being healthy competitors is a good deal for the customers. And, the idea that you can lock a customer up, and they can't do anything any different, is just, we don't operate in that environment in our neck of the woods.
Tom Nobbe: Exactly right. One other, I got one more point I'd like to make is, the service advisors, what we provide to the customers, and I looked it up before we came here. We have a customer in Benton, Illinois and we have one here in Kingdom City that's utilizing service advisor. We have a Jerseyville technician, that quit at our Jerseyville, Illinois store and went on his own, and we sold him everything he needed to diagnose and repair the equipment. He's competing against us, but we sold it to him.
Right down the road, MoDOT, they have eight subscriptions to John Deere service advisor. They have a X technician from Heritage Tractor, and they have an X technician from us working on the equipment. They bought all that from us. So, if that isn't an indication that we're supplying and holding up our end of the bargain, I'm not sure really what is. And matter of fact, we even suggest maybe we have a demonstration out there at the MoDOT garage of how they're utilizing those systems.
Paul Combs: I would just say our experience is that we bought, when Right to Repair First came up a couple years ago, we bought three of the tools to give to three of our better customers, and two of them didn't want it at all. They, no, we're going to call you anyway. And the third took it, but they don't use it, they still call us. So the demand, we're not seeing the demand by either the independent shops, or the farmers for these service tools that Case IH offers, and we're glad to provide them.
Ken Hayden: My larger producers, none of them would have taken it either. I mean, if I polled large, and again, we're talking about three, in our area, three to 10,000 acre people, they weren't going to take it. So, that's, matches what you said.
Updated Nov. 15, 2022
Farmers File Consolidated Class Action 'Right to Repair' Complaint Against Deere
According to an Oct. 24 filing from the Court of the Northern District of Illinois, 9 growers have filed a consolidated class action lawsuit against John Deere regarding their ability to repair their equipment.
The plaintiffs include Plum Ridge Farms, Colvin Farms, England Farms & Harvesting, Robbins Family Grain, Wilson Farms Land & Cattle, Hapka Farms, Eagle Lake Farms Partnership, Blake Johnson and Trinity Dale Wells.
Plum Ridge Farms, Hapka Farms, Eagle Lake Farms Partnership and Trinity Dale Wells have all been listed as plaintiffs in Farm Equipment's previous coverage of ongoing right-to-repair lawsuits.
One portion of this complaint that appears to be new (compared to previous filings) is a reference to Titan Machinery's most recent 10-K filing (filed April 1, 2022) with the SEC where the dealership addresses the impact right-to-repair legislation could have on its business.
The complaint states the following:
Dealers are rarely up front about their true motivations for obstructing access to comprehensive Repair Tools. However, Titan Machinery, the largest dealership group for Deere’s next-largest competitor Case New Holland (which, like Deere also signed on to the “Statement of Principles” and has taken the position that comprehensive repair tools have been made sufficiently available), aptly summed up the threat that Dealerships face if required to provide Dealer-level Repair Tools. In its most recent 10-K Filing with the SEC, Titan explicitly identifies that “Enactment of ‘right to repair’ legislation could adversely affect the sales and profitability of our parts and service business.
The portion of Titan Machinery's 10-K filing the complaint references reads as follows:
Proposed state and federal legislation has been introduced that generally would require the manufacturers of products to provide the purchaser and/or independent repair technicians with documents, diagnostic software, and other information that would allow the equipment to be repaired without having it returned to the dealer for repair. Moreover, recent versions of the proposed legislation require that the manufacturer sell certain spare parts to users and third-party repair shops at the same price as offered by the manufacturer to its authorized dealers. To date, no form of legislation has passed in the states where we do business or at the federal level.
It is difficult to predict whether any form of this legislation will be enacted in any of the states where we do business or at the federal level. If enacted, however, any such legislation could have negative impacts on our parts and service business as follows:
Increased competition for repair services. We would become subject to additional competition from independent repair shops and/or other equipment dealers’ repair shops, who would have greater access to manufacturer-furnished diagnostic tools as necessary to perform repair and maintenance services on CNH Industrial branded equipment.
Loss of parts sales. If customers, third-party repair shops, and/or parts vendors are able to purchase parts directly from the manufacturer at the same price as available to us, then our parts business would be negatively impacted.
Margin Compression on Parts and Service Revenue. With the increased competition for repair service and parts sales, we would expect that this new competition would result in margin compression in our sales.
Click here to read the full complaint.
Updated Nov. 14, 2022
Independent Service Shop's View on Right-to-Repair
For the last 30 years Dave Moeller has run Moeller Ag Service in Keota, Iowa, a an independent farm repair and equipment upgrading shop specializing in retrofitting older no-till planters and handling Gleaner combines. In a recent interview with No-Till Farmer, Moeller express his concerns surrounding right-to-repair as an independent dealer, specifically noting the cost of Gleaner repair software outweighs the benefit it would bring to his business.
"There's a lot of technology that you have to have a computer, which most repair shops do, but then you got to have the program, and there's a lot of companies that won't allow you to have that, or it's very costly to have that," he said. "With the Gleaner combine side, we actually explored that, having that capability to hook up to an engine and do some troubleshooting. But it was to the point where, if you were only doing that 2-3 times a year, it wasn't worth our time and effort to invest $20,000 to have the computer programs and have a yearly subscription to that to justify it.
"It's a double-edged sword there also. You need to be able to support that customer, but yet, when you don't have that capability, you got to go back to the dealership to have them come out and obviously hook the computer up and say, 'Okay, your code is cleared. We're going to go ahead and try it again, make sure it works.' And sometimes, it might be something as simple as a sensor, but you can't fix it for them. In this area, on the Gleaner side, the nearest dealer's an hour away. I feel confident that we're not infringing on anybody. I looked at that."
Updated Oct. 18, 2022
Independent Repair Shop Shares Their Experience Repairing Equipment
The Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers Association visited with Ian Groteluschen, owner of independent repair shop Groteluschen Repair, about his experience using the Customer Level John Deere Service Advisor. He says to the tool helps him better serve his customers to get their equipment fixed faster. Joe Ruskamp, Certified Dealer Instructor, Platte Valley Equipment, also speaks to the strength of the dealership's relationship with independent repair shops.
Updated Sept. 30, 2022
Common Ground Can Be Found on R2R
From ‘Observations from the Field’ by Tim Wentz, Tim Wentz, NEDA Field Director / Legislative Committee Chairman
Published with permission of the Northeast Equipment Dealers Assn. (NEDA).
It is not easy to do, but experience has taught me to listen to what the “other side” is advocating for and use that information to try find common ground, while at the same time trying to help them understand any of the unintended consequences of their “ask.” Advocates often say that the goal of our campaign is to ensure that small family farms can survive in today’s economy. Farmers just want to repair their own equipment. This is a very effective sound bite that is vague yet relatable, particularly when paired with monopoly/big business talking points in the current media landscape and given abbreviated attention spans!
We know that the issue is far more complicated than the advocates would have the public (to include your customers) and legislators believe! The majority of repairs are performed by customers and independent shops – why else would a majority of parts sales be over the counter? Emissions is a false flag argument – why else would 15% of diesel pickups in the U.S. have emissions Defeat Devices? How does a dealer value equipment that is being operated outside of factory design specifications, safety or emissions control/systems defeated? These are a few of the questions the advocates have conveniently called red herrings!
Is there common ground to be found? There is! Everyone, agrees that a diverse population of profitable farmers is more resilient, produces more, is more sustainable and is in both the public’s interest and our national security. Few would argue that labor is not a problem. Not as many will agree that technology is the most effective solution to the labor challenge – history has proven otherwise! As appealing as it is to wish that things would just go back to “the good old days,” that is not going to happen. The better choice would be for all to work cooperatively towards identifying a legislative policy focused on building and supporting a vibrant and profitable producer population.
Regardless of the pathway chosen by advocates, industry and legislators, we can be certain that the more voices we are able to bring to the table, the more likely it will be that legislators and the public will understand that R2R (modify) is a far more complicated issue than the sound bites driving both social and traditional media.
Click here for the full report.
Updated Sept. 22, 2022
NAEDA Wants 'Repair Done Right' Instead of 'Right to Repair'
According to a Sept. 21 article from Grainews, Eric Wareham, North American Equipment Dealers Assn. (NAEDA) vice-president of government affairs, wants thinking to shift from "right to repair," which insinuates dealers and manufacturers are infringing on someone’s rights, to "repair done right."
Wareham tells Grainews that dealers and manufacturers support farmers in their maintenance, evidenced by the fact that, on average, 60% of a dealership's part sales go right out the door.
"In other words, a majority of repairs are performed by someone other than the dealership,” says Wareham. “This is an important point to make because it clearly shows there is no monopoly on repairs.”
Click here for the full report.
Updated Sept. 16, 2022
Right to Repair Inquiry About John Deere's Customer Service Advisor
By Mike Lessiter
R2R crusaders like U.S. PIRG and Vice have reported on several occasions that John Deere dealers refused to acknowledge requests from the public for the Customer Service Advisor program. I recall an article that cited a dozen or so dealers across multiple states were called with anonymous requests to purchase the $2,400 software. The response was crickets, it was reported, or worse, included lies about who was permitted to access the software.
While I suspect some information was conveniently left out of these position pieces, it didn't sound like the dealer audience I've come to know. And while I didn't have the endless labor hours to throw at an investigation like the think-tanks and lobbyists (perhaps that's why journalism is facing a labor shortage these days), I was willing to make an inquiry of my own — in an experiment of 1.
I went to the John Deere site and completed the online request form for Customer Service Advisor. I identified myself only as “MJ” (and not part of the farm equipment media) and asked for information about the software. A few days later, I got the friendly email below from Erich Bartos, service manager at the nearest John Deere dealer, Proven Power in Waukesha, Wis.
I placed a call to the store and learned Erich was out, but another service department colleague followed up to see if he could help, so it didn’t appear that there'd be stonewalling going on here with an inquirer about Deere's diagnostic software. After "normal" phone tag, Erich and I connected.
Bartos was friendly and congenial with someone who’d never spent a nickel at his store, and patiently answered my questions. I learned that if I bought the system, the benefits would include access to up to 4 computers at our location, would provide me thousands of pages of operator manuals in one place, and allow me to check codes. I wouldn’t be able to clear the codes, of course, but I’d be able to pull them up and determine what they mean. I’d be able to learn some quick tips to help a maintenance or troubleshooting situation, such as locating test points and which specific sensors or solenoids should be checked. I did eventually let on that I was part of the Farm Equipment magazine (a business-to-business magazine for machinery dealers).
Click here for the full blog.
Updated Sept. 15, 2022
Right to Repair and What it Means for Entrepreneurs
Statement by Ken Taylor, President of Ohio Machinery Co., On Behalf of Associated Equipment Distributors before the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee’s Underserved, Agricultural, and Rural Business Development Subcommittee
“Right to repair” is a simple slogan; however, as my testimony will highlight, the policy proposals surrounding the issue are complex with significant consequences. To that end, I will discuss the concerns of AED and its members, which are shared with many other economic sectors and industries surrounding the right to repair discussion.
For the equipment industry, the overly broad legislative proposals being considered in many states, and introduced in Congress, are based on a false narrative that customers are unable to fix their own tractors and machinery. To the contrary, equipment manufacturers and distributors make available diagnostic tools, repair information, parts, and remote customer support. Idle, non-functioning equipment equals lost time and money. Whether it’s on a farm during harvest or a road building project there is absolutely zero incentive to not do everything we can as equipment dealers and manufacturers to keep a machine running. That can mean repairs completed by a dealership service technician, the customer, or a third- party provider. The equipment industry is highly competitive, and if Ohio Machinery Co. isn’t providing proper and timely service, nothing is stopping the customer from moving to one of my many competitors and their products.
In fact, a significant percentage of our parts sales are sold directly to customers so they can repair their own equipment. However, the tractors we’re selling today are not the same as those sold by my grandfather or even my father. While customers can complete most repairs to their machinery, government environmental and safety regulations, as well as technological developments that have made equipment more efficient and productive, necessitate restrictions in access to source code and software that ensure key operational functions aren’t modified or disabled.
Consequently, while AED members support the right for customers to repair their machinery, we don’t support unfettered access to critical on-board software and information pertaining to environmental and safety protections. Unfortunately, right to repair bills, including the Fair Repair Act (H.R. 4006/S. 3830) and similar legislative proposals, have serious environmental, safety, legal, economic, intellectual property and cybersecurity implications.
Click here for the full report.
Updated Sept. 4, 2022
Right to Repair: Legislate in a Solution? No Thanks
By Mike Lessiter
My iPhone alerts last Friday cause a burst of frustration to start the holiday weekend. First was a right-to-repair (R2R) video that I got suckered into watching, then news reaffirming that legislative absurdity isn’t limited to just Sri Lanka.
First, the R2R videocast. The recent episode of The Dirt featured R2R advocate Tyler Robertson. R2R proponents will find an enthusiastic lovefest in the video and yes, I could’ve avoided it. What got to me most was not the normal pro-R2R tenets, but rather the boasting of the ride on the backs of others.
After talking about the OEMs’ poor argument against intellectual property theft (vs. their control of information, technology and tools) and dealers’ turf protection, Robertson says, “So there's companies like ours who go out there and we have to reverse-engineer things. We have to figure how things work. We have to make our own solutions.”
Call me old-school, but I don’t care to revere the reverse-engineers, or for that matter, the Sick.Codes types who are held in high esteem these days. Complaining about having to reverse-engineer software without manufacturer permission sure sounds like an admission of coattail-riding. The free system allows a “dependency” (a nicer way of putting it then I originally keyed in) as a choice but it’s hardly a cross one has to bear. If having to reverse-engineer something is too arduous, then come up with a truly novel solution and leverage it instead.
Click here for the full blog.
Updated July 25, 2022
Right-to-Repair Groups Accuse Deere of Violating Clean Air Act
In a July 21 press release from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Repair Coalition, the groups called on the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate John Deere for potential violations of the Clean Air Act, saying, "Research done by Repair.org discovered that Deere’s repair restrictions seem to run contrary to Clean Air Act requirements related to independent repair and required certifications. However, Deere restricts access to necessary repair software to only its branded technicians and dealerships."
The press release states that, "The EPA requires that manufacturers of non-road diesel engines apply and obtain a certificate of conformity with the Clean Air Act on an annual basis. If the EPA deems that a manufacturer fails to comply with emissions standards or the Clean Air Act, it can deny or revoke the company’s certification.
Updated June 9, 2022
Deere Faces 13th Right-to-Repair Lawsuit in Alabama
According to a June 8 report from Progressive Farmer, a 13th right-to-repair lawsuit against John Deere has been filed in Tuscaloosa, Ala., by resident Gary DeLoach. According to the filings, DeLoach "purchased a tractor from a reseller of tractors. When in need of repairs for his tractors, Plaintiff Gary DeLoach was forced to purchase DRS (repair and maintenance services) from a dealership in Alabama, for which he was overcharged."
A total of 10 such lawsuits have been filed against Deere in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Illinois and the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation recently consolidated 9 of the cases in the Illinois court.
According to Progressive Farmer, the consolidated suits are brought by Forest River Farms in North Dakota; Plum Ridge Farms Ltd. v. Deere in Illinois; Daniel Brown, the owner of Otsego Forestry Services in New York; Arkansas-based Eagle Lake Farms Partnership; Virginia-based Lloyd Family Farms; Franklin County, Alabama, farmer Trinity Dale Wells; Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, farmer Monty Ferrell; and Tennessee farmer David Underwood from a federal court in Tennessee.
Updated April 12, 2022
Right to Repair Bill Fails in Nebraska Legislature
The Nebraska state legislature did not vote on LB-543, “The Right to Repair” bill. State Senator Tom Brandt sponsored the bill earlier this year, but says the legislature simply ran out of time, reports WNAX.
He says several states have been working on similar legislation, but as of yet, no state has passed one.
Since the bill’s introduction in Nebraska, John Deere and company announced it would sell machine-serving software to farmers amid “right to repair” complaints.
The bill would have provided farmers and independent repair shops with the necessary digital tools to repair agriculture equipment.
Brandt told colleagues during a floor debate on the bill that he would like to see manufacturers reach agreements to take similar actions.
In 2012, state lawmakers in Massachusetts passed a law giving car and light-duty truck owners and independent repair shops access to digital repair software and tools. The action led foreign and domestic car manufacturers to reach a memorandum of understanding to provide the tools in all 50 states.
Some state senators had expressed concern about Nebraska being the first state to pass such legislation, pointing to ever-evolving agriculture technology as a reason why many farmers will increasingly need trained technicians to make repairs.
Brandt said several changes had been made to the original bill. A section dealing with data collection and ownership, he said, was removed from the legislation. The scaled-back bill would have allowed owners and third-party mechanics the ability to repair agricultural machinery back to manufacturers’ specifications.
In Europe, Brandt said, equipment manufacturers are required to make repair software available. As a result, he said, some American farmers are buying parts in Europe and bringing them back to the states.
Updated March 31, 2022
Dealer Right-to-Repair Wins Continue in 2022
As we reach the end of the first quarter, it is important to take a look back at where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished so far this year. The Equipment Dealers Assn. released the following statement about the current state of legislation.
To date, 26 states have filed Illegal Tampering legislation in 2022, reports the Equipment Dealers Assn. Most states (and some dealers) incorrectly call these bills “Right to Repair.” Once our dealers show the legislators what these bills are really about, we can defeat the bills.
In a matter of 3 months, the EDA, its regional affiliates, and associated dealers have defeated half of the Illegal Tampering bill filed in 2022. Yes, 13 states have either pulled their bills or opted to let them die in committee. More states appear to be leaning that way. But there is still work to do.
Currently, the Northeast continues pushing these bills under the guise of diagnostic repair for end users. However, these states include language for parts at dealer costs. This effectively cuts the equipment dealer out of the supply chain. We must continue to fight this legislation in every state — every year.
To do this, we need your continued support and voice. Be vocal, get engaged, and contact your fellow dealers to join the fight.
While we continue to see Illegal Tampering bills filed every year, your efforts prevent the passage of this legislation. You make the difference. We wanted to share these wins with you and remind you to stay engaged on this issue.
Updated March 30, 2022
Deere: Self-Repair Announcement 'Not in Response to Biden's Executive Order'
According to a March 22 report from The Des Moines Register, John Deere spokesperson Jennifer Hartmann stated the company's recent announcement that it will roll out an enhanced customer solution for self-repair is not related to President Joe Biden's July 9, 2021, executive order regarding right-to-repair. Hartmann also said it was unrelated to the National Farmers Union, Iowa Farmers Union and other state farmers unions' recent petition to the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation into Deere over repair restrictions related to the right to repair movement.
"John Deere has a long history of innovation,"Hartmann said in an email to The Des Moines Register, "and these expanded repair resources have been planned for some time."
Hartmann also stated the software pricing will begin at $1,200, though "the product can be more expensive depending on the type of machine and the version that farmers and repair shops need."
Updated March 24, 2022
Now 10 Lawsuits Filed Against Deere
There are now 10 suits filed and one FTC complaint:
- Forest River Farms v. Deere & Co. 1/12/2022 1:2022cv00188
- Wells v. Deere & Co 1/19/2022 3:2022cv00074
- Underwood v. Deere & Co. (d/b/a John Deere) 2/3/2022 4:2022cv00005
- Plum Ridge Farms, Ltd. v. Deere & Co. 2/7/2022 3:2022cv50030
- Brown v. Deere & Co. 2/11/2022 3:2022cv50039
- Ferrell et al v. Deere & Co 2/22/2022 5:2022cv00157
- Hapka Farms, Inc. v. Deere & Co. 2/28/2022 0:2022cv00503
- Eagle Lake Farms Partnership v. Deere & Co. 3/11/2022 3:2022cv50078
- Casselbury v. Deere & Co. 3/14/2022 4:2022cv04049
- Johnson v. Deere & Co. 3/15/2022 1:2022cv00047
Updated March 22, 2022
John Deere Faces Another Class Action Suit
According to a March 15 report from Law Street Media, Eagle Lake Farms Partnership has brought a class action lawsuit against John Deere in the U.S. District Court of the North District of Illinois over alleged violations of federal antitrust laws.
Eagle Lake Farms describes its case as being "… about John Deere’s monopolization of the repair service market for John Deere … brand agricultural equipment with on board central computers known as engine control units or ‘ECUs.’”
The report stated the following regarding Eagle Lake Farms' allegations:
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has “deliberately monopolized” the market for repair and maintenance services for such equipment “by making crucial software and repair tools inaccessible to farmers and independent repair shops.” Instead, Defendant has allegedly forced consolidation in its dealership network and has contractually prohibited the dealerships from providing “farmers and [independent] repair shops with access to the same software and repair tools the Dealerships have.” Through such conduct, “Deere and the Dealerships have cornered the Deere Repair Services Market in the United States for Deere-branded agricultural equipment controlled by ECUs and have derived supracompetitive profits from the sale of repair and maintenance services.”
Note this lawsuit was filed before Deere's March 21 announcement that it will expand access to its diagnostic software (see below).
For the full report from Law Street Media, click here.
Updated March 21, 2022
John Deere Expands Access to Self-Repair Resources
John Deere announced March 21 it will enhance the capabilities of existing diagnostic tools and expand their availability. In 2023, the company will roll out an enhanced customer solution that includes a mobile device interface, and the ability to download secure software updates directly to embedded controllers on select John Deere equipment with 4G connections.
Deere also announced that coming this May it will expand its offerings by giving customers and independent repair shops in the U.S. the ability to purchase Customer Service ADVISOR directly through JohnDeereStore.com.
Read more about the announcement here.
Updated March 4, 2022
National and State Farmers Groups File Complaint Against Deere
According to a report from KCRG in Des Moines, Iowa, the National Farmers Union, Iowa Farmers Union and other state farmers unions are petitioning the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation into Deere over repair restrictions related to the right to repair movement.
According to the complaint,
Petitioners allege that Deere's policy of withholding from its customers diagnostic software and other information necessary to repair the Deere equipment they own violates the Sherman Act and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, and they request that the Commission enjoin Deere's unlawful conduct.
The issues raised in the complaint are consistent with those filed by other groups in recent weeks.
You can find the full complaint here.
Updated Feb. 24, 2022
R2R Advocacy Research Suggests Dealership Consolidations Impact Right to Repair
In a research report by Kevin O’Reilly at the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, dealership consolidation — particularly by John Deere — have eroded repair choices for farmers and the Right to Repair movement could expand those choices. PIRG Educational Fund produced the report as advocacy research in support of Right to Repair.
"When I first started farming, there were three family-owned dealerships within 45 minutes of my ranch. Now I have to drive nearly four hours to get to a second dealership chain," said Walter Schweitzer, a third-generation farmer and president of the Montana Farmers Union.
According to the survey conducted by U.S. PIRG Education Fund and National Farmers Union, 65% of the 74 farmers who responded report having access to fewer dealerships than five years ago. At the same time, many farmers report that local mom and pop dealers were bought by larger chains, resulting in the consolidation confirmed in the findings.
John Deere, which controls 53% of the country’s large tractor market, has been working to consolidate dealerships since the mid-2000s. U.S. PIRG research shows Deere has been quite successful in consolidating dealerships: 82% of Deere’s 1,357 agricultural equipment dealerships are a part of a large chain with seven or more locations. The average Deere chain has about 8 sites, with the largest chain network including 67. According to the report, there is one John Deere dealership chain for every 12,018 farms and every 5.3 million acres of American farmland.
Montana offers a stark example of the regional domination of certain Deere dealerships. Despite having 58 million acres of farmland, the second-most of any state in the country, the state only has three large John Deere chains with a combined 19 locations serving Montana farms. RDO Equipment has a couple locations in western Montana, Frontline Ag Solutions serves much of the center of the state and C & B Operations has locations throughout eastern Montana.
While less pronounced for other manufacturers, large dealership chains can be a problem for farmers regardless of the color of the paint on their tractor. The largest Case IH chain includes 57 locations that service agricultural equipment, AGCO includes 31, and the chain with the most locations that services Kubota equipment has 6 sites.
Dealer-manufacturer exclusivity is connected to and compounds this problem. Ninety-five percent of the combined 2,942 John Deere, Kubota, Case IH and AGCO dealership locations across the country service agricultural equipment from only one of the four manufacturers. Repair restrictions require dealerships to maintain agreements with manufacturers in order to access repair materials. If these restrictions were removed, dealerships, like farmers, could buy the tools they need to fix equipment made by any manufacturer. But as it is now, repair-infrastructure remains locked down as consolidation limits choice for farmers.
According to the report, the dealership landscape can also affect which equipment farmers purchase. Some farmers forgo modern equipment altogether; 77% of the 74 farmers U.S. PIRG Education Fund and National Farmers Union surveyed have purchased older-model equipment to avoid the software in newer equipment that requires dealership fixes.
But not all farmers want to rely on decades-old tractors. When people ask Wyatt Parks, a Minnesota farmer, which tractor to buy, he tells them to, “Buy whatever is the closest dealership to you because those are the people that you need to help fix your stuff. When you need a part, the distance of that drive to the dealership means a lot.”
“I want to emphasize just how much consolidation is affecting this,” Missouri farmer Jared Wilson told U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “Even if they had this repair monopoly, if they had some segmentation, it would provide some incentive for these dealerships to do a better job. And the fact that they have consolidated so much means that they absolutely don't have to at all, because you just have no other choice. It's not practical to take your 20-ton machine and move it 300 miles to go get work done. The logistics of that just don't work.”
Updated Feb. 11, 2022
Third Class Action Suit Filed Against Dealer Over Right to Repair
Plum Ridge Farmers Ltd. filed a complaint on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in the Northern District of Illinois against Deere & Co. similar to other complaints filed this month over the alleged monopolization of the repair service market, reports Law Street.
According to the report:
Updated Feb. 2, 2022
A Closer Look at Tester's Proposed R2R Legislation
The Agricultural Right to Repair Act introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) on Feb. 1, 2022, would specifically require manufacturers to make documentation, parts, software or tools required to diagnose, maintain or repair their equipment available to farmers and independent repair shops, according to a report by Northern Ag Network.
As Farm Equipment has previously reported, these tools are currently available from Deere, Case IH, New Holland and Claas. At the time of that report, Kubota was working on a tool for the public.
The Norther Ag Network article goes on to say,
The legislation also seeks to make sure parts are replaceable using commonly available tools or make specialized tools available to farmers on "fair and reasonable" terms.
Updated Feb. 1, 2022
Tester Proposes Powerful Legislation Aimed to Expand Farmers’ Right to Repair
WASHINGTON – Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the “Agricultural Right to Repair Act” today, taking an important step toward breaking consolidated equipment manufacturers’ monopoly over repair for critical farm tools.
The bill comes after significant progress made in the past two years including:
- A number of high-profile lawsuits challenging restrictive repair practices,
- More than a dozen state proposals of right to repair legislation,
- President Joe Biden’s executive order pushing the Federal Trade Commission to use its statutory authority to enact rules preventing restrictions on repair by dominant manufacturers in July 2021,
- And the publication of a report and guidance document from the FTC in May 2021 and July 2021, respectively, that will create a significant deterrent on manufacturers implementing restrictive repair practices.
Updated Jan. 26, 2022
Editor's Note: The following update was original published in the January/February 2022 issue of AED Magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.
C & B Takes Proactive Approach to So-Called Right to Repair
by Daniel Fisher
The so-called “Right to Repair” movement, which is pushing legislation at all levels of government, is based on the false narrative that equipment end users are denied the ability to repair and maintain their own equipment. The truth is, unlike the consumer electronics sector and other industries targeted by right to repair proponents, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and authorized distributors of heavy equipment already make diagnostic tools, parts and repair manuals available to their customers. However, a false perception remains that farmers and other end users are prevented from making necessary repairs to their tractors.
In President Biden’s executive order from last summer “promoting competition in the American economy,” he encouraged the Federal Trade Commission to address “unfair anticompetitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.” Presidential candidates, U.S. senators and representatives, members of the Canadian Parliament and state lawmakers have all repeated similar claims.
With state legislatures reconvening and mandates being proposed in both Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, OEMs and equipment distributors must go on offense and be clear in pointing out that customers already can repair their own equipment. What they are prohibited from doing is modifying their equipment, particularly to circumvent important safety and environmental controls.
AED views government-mandated right to repair policies as a solution in search of a problem. Accordingly, the industry must be persistent in its efforts to educate customers about the misinformation surrounding right to repair and to highlight the information, tools and parts that are readily available to customers. If not, right to repair advocates will continue to shape the narrative and win the public relations battle.
C & B Operations LLC, a John Deere agricultural equipment dealer with 37 locations across South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, has taken a particularly proactive strategy to inform and educate its customers about their rights when it comes to repairing their equipment.
“We support the right to repair,” says Jack Gerhardt, Vice President of Aftermarket Strategy & Support for C & B. C & B makes service manuals and tools available and fully supports a customer’s right to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair their equipment.
If equipment customers already have the right to repair, then what are proponents of government mandates pursuing? “'Right to Repair' is misleading,” Gerhardt explains. “The legislation is really proposing the right to modify.” “Call it what it is,” Peter Burwell, C & B's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, says with conviction. “It’s really the right to modify – and that needs a deeper discussion. There is more to this legislation than right to repair.”
Elaborating on that sentiment, Andy Brehm, deputy general counsel for C & B, says, “Customers have every right to repair equipment, but there are concerns about them making modifications that could be dangerous.” C & B does not support the right to compromise safety, manufacturer warranties or compliance with EPA emissions standards.
Proponents of right to repair are really seeking unfettered access to onboard software and source code, efforts that C & B, AED and the broader industry vehemently reject. The only reason customers need access to the source code is to enable them to modify safety and environmental protections on the equipment to improve performance. “Even the dealers can’t change the codes,” Burwell explains.
The unintended consequences of equipment modifications are significant. Overriding safety features could put operators and bystanders at risk of injury. “Road speed [can be] increased,” Gerhardt states. “Steering [can be] compromised.” He points out that most of today’s equipment features drive-by-wire technology rather than mechanical linkages. When systems are related, there could be unintended consequences from customer-made modifications.
Furthermore, overriding emissions controls and safety systems could have legal consequences, and it’s unclear how right to repair legislation may impact legal liability for dealers. “It’s a risk,” Burwell sums up.
Right to repair mandates can also trigger a financial impact for manufacturers and dealers. “Some states call for access to proprietary codes,” Gerhardt says. If manufacturers are forced to share them, he believes it will result in the loss of competitive advantage. Similarly, he thinks dealers could lose their competitive advantage under this legislation. “Minnesota legislation [that was proposed] a few years ago would require dealers to sell parts to anyone at dealer cost. It’s killing the dealer. Why would we inventory parts [if we have to sell them at cost]?” He contends that having to allocate space for inventory and time to handle parts would become untenable if dealers were forced to sell parts at cost.
As policymakers continue to pursue a one-size-fits-all approach by treating heavy equipment the same as consumer products, such as cell phones and tablets, it’s imperative that dealers inform their customers about their right to repair, rendering legislation unnecessary. To that end, C & B has embarked on an education campaign to provide information to customers while opposing the broader legislative efforts.
Communication is key. C & B has a section of its website dedicated to assisting its customers perform “do-it-yourself repairs.” Resources include C & B Central, a free online platform where customers can quickly access detailed schematics and parts information including pricing and availability. Furthermore, C & B directs customers to manuals and publications provided by John Deere [www.deerequipment.com/parts/operatingmanuals].
C & B also informs its customers of the opportunity to access Customer Service Advisor, a fee-based annual subscription that allows customers to take advantage of the same software platform used by certified John Deere dealers, and to purchase of specialized tooling identical to that used by its own technicians.
“People are not eliminated from the repair market,” he said, noting that over-the-counter parts sales have gone up 3 percent since 2017. “Today, 62 percent of our parts are sold over the counter; it’s the majority of our business,” demonstrating that both individual owners and independent shops are repairing equipment. “The remaining 38 percent of parts sales go toward warranty repairs, internal reconditioning of traded equipment and dealer-provided repair, maintenance and upgrades of customer-owned equipment.”
It's imperative that dealers communicate to customers their right to repair and inform them of resources available. Notifying customers of their rights could help curtail the growing momentum for legislation. “There needs to be conversations to build an understanding,” Burwell asserts, adding, “We want to be a voice in the discussion.” C & B is confident that its strategy of honesty and candor with customers and policymakers, its ever-expanding offering of self-repair tools and proactive communication will help defeat this misnamed, dangerous and extreme legislative effort.
Jan. 14, 2022
Deere Hit with Class Action Lawsuit Over Right to Repair
Forest River Farms in Forest River, N.D., has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Deere & Co. over what the case claims to be a “monopolization of the repair service market for John Deere (“Deere”) brand agricultural equipment with onboard central computers known as engine control units, or ‘ECUs.’”
The class action lawsuit was filed in Chicago federal court on Jan. 12, 2022.
According to a Jan. 13, 2022, report by Progressive Farmer, “Forest River Farms in Forest River, North Dakota, asked for a trial by jury and wants the court to order John Deere to make the necessary software available to individual farmers and repair shops."
The lawsuit also seeks damages for farmers who have paid for repairs from Deere dealers since Jan. 12, 2018 to the present, according to the complaint.
It is also noted in the complaint that Forest River Farms owns 5 Deere tractors and 2 Deere combines that use ECUs.
The complaint states, “Deere’s monopolization of the Deere Repair Services Market allows Deere and the Dealerships to charge and collect supracompetitive prices for its services every time a piece of equipment requires the Software to diagnose or complete a repair. Consequently, Plaintiff and Class members have paid millions of dollars more for the repair services than they would have paid in a competitive market.”
The complaint also claims that while Deere has demonstrated that it understands farmers have a right to repair their own equipment, the manufacturer has been “misleading the public regarding how easy it is for farmers or independent repair shops to perform repairs.”
Two reports by Farm Equipment's sister publication, Ag Equipment Intelligence, are referenced in this lawsuit:
Big Dealers Continue to Get Bigger, April 22, 2021
John Deere Responds to Vice Article on Right to Repair, March 30, 2021
You can find the full complaint here.
Updated Jan. 25, 2022
Alabama Farmer Files Similar Suit over Right to Repair
According to a report from AL.com, Trinity Dale Wells, a cattle farmer from Franklin County, Ala., filed a lawsuit against John Deere on Jan. 19, 2022, in Huntsville, Ala. The lawsuit is very similar to the one filed in Chicago earlier this month by North Dakota's Forest River Farms. According to the AL.com report, Wells is "alleging the company’s proprietary tractor software is creating a monopoly that’s unfair to small farmers. His lawyers are asking the court to declare it a class action suit and say they hope to represent all affected in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi."