Updated Jan. 25, 2023

Farmers in Right-to-Repair Lawsuit File Response to Deere's Motion to Dismiss the Case

According to a Jan. 24 Progressive Farmer article, after John Deere filed a motion in December asking the court to make a ruling without a trial and essentially dismiss the case, the farmers involved in the case have now filed a response in opposition to Deere's motion. 

While Deere claimed that the farmers' original complaint failed to identify a "co-conspirator" and is not specific enough, the farmers' response begs to differ. 

They claim that the original filing "paints a detailed picture of how defendant Deere and its affiliated dealerships have unlawfully restrained competition in the market for repair services of Deere-brand agricultural equipment."

The plaintiffs also requested permission to be able to amend their original complaint if the court does end up agreeing with Deere that the original suit was not sufficient and failed to identify a "co-conspirator."


Updated Jan. 18, 2023

Canadian Right-to-Repair Bill Could Stunt Innovation in Ag Equipment Tech

John Schmeiser, president of the Canadian arm of the North American Equipment Dealers Assn. (NAEDA), told Farmers Forum in a Jan. 16 article that if the Canadian parliament right-to-repair bill C-244 passes, U.S. companies may stop including their most advanced technology on farm equipment sold in Canada.

C-244 is described in the report as loosening "the Copyright Act to give consumers access to the information and computer code needed to diagnose, maintain and repair all sorts of appliances by themselves."

“Cybersecurity and the threat of somebody stealing corporate secrets is top of mind, and we just haven’t escalated to that same level of debate in Canada at this point,” Schmeiser told Farmers Forum. “But I think the threat is very real… I think the whole industry is at risk of having intellectual property stolen if things like access to software is just thrown wide open.”

One argument is that passage of the bill could allow China easier access to proprietary software for copying.

Schmeiser added that the bill violates World Trade Organization rules and the Canada-US-Mexico Agreement on Trade.


Updated Jan. 18, 2023

Right-to-Repair Advocate Says John Deere Memorandum 'Appears to be a Step Forward'

Kevin O'Reilly, the right-to-repair campaign director at the Public Interest Research Group, told NPR in a Jan. 10 article that the memorandum of understanding between John Deere and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) "appeared to be a step forward." He said, however, that John Deere had made "similar promises in the past."

"If this document, if this MOU, completely comes through on what it's stated to do, then this would be a win for farmers," O'Reilly told NPR. "But we're not totally convinced that that will be the case."


Updated Jan. 18, 2023

National Farmers Union Says John Deere Right-to-Repair Pact is 'Riddled with Loopholes'

According to a Jan. 14 article from Progressive Farmer, the National Farmers Union — a national federation representing almost 200,000 growers — said in its newsletter to members that the memorandum of understanding between John Deere and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is "riddled with potential loopholes."

The portion of the newsletter quoted in the article reads as follows;

"The AFBF-John Deere MOU is a non-binding agreement between only one group and one equipment manufacturer, and that manufacturer has a history of preventing farmers from being able to affordably fixing their equipment.

"While the deal states that farmers will be able to access the same repair materials as dealership technicians, it is riddled with potential loopholes that the manufacturer could use to deny farmers repair access. It requires independent mechanics to jump through hoops to acquire these repair materials. John Deere can also walk away from the MOU with 30 days' notice, which doesn't provide any assurance that the deal will be honored.

"Put simply, the MOU falls far short of the protections to farmers that would be achieved with legislation or regulations that apply to all equipment manufacturers.

"Farmers Union will continue to advocate for legislation that will give farmers full control over fixing their own equipment until the problem is fully solved."


Updated Jan. 16, 2023

Delaware Considers Right-to-Repair Bill Excluding Farm Equipment

According to a Jan. 9 report from Delaware Public Media, Delaware state lawmakers will consider a right to repair bill for a second time during this year's General Assembly. The bill was first introduced ahead of the 2021 legislative session.

One difference in the new bill, however, is that it will exclude farm equipment manufacturers. State Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown), who first introduced the bill, said John Deere's recent Memorandum of Understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation, "could enable Delaware's General Assembly to consider a version of the right to repair bill that covers farm equipment."

Click here to read more.


Updated Jan. 13, 2023

Point/Counterpoint: Dealer & Farmer Argue Their Sides of the R2R Debate

Editor's note: Prior to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) signing a memorandum of understanding on Jan. 8 with John Deere, which "ensures farmers’ and ranchers’ right to repair their own farm equipment," the editors of Farm Equipment asked dealer Tom Nobbe and farmer Walter Schweitzer to contribute to a Point/Counterpoint on Right to Repair legislation. 

Point: Stating the Case for Dealers on R2R

Tom Nobbe explains industry stance on right to repair, and why legislation is not the answer.

Tom Nobbe, Sydenstricker Nobbe Partners 

First let me say that for several years now, our dealership has made available whatever our customers or independent repair shops need to service their own equipment. We work hard to prove that we are worth the extra cost to repair our customer’s equipment in a timely manner, but also realize that we will not get all customers to let our dealership do their work.  We and John Deere truly believe it is the customer’s right to choose who they have work on their equipment, including doing it themselves.   

We provide technical, diagnostic and operators manuals, parts, expert advice, and even electronic diagnostic computers, which are the same ones our own technicians use to repair equipment. 

Through the years, our parts sales over the counter to customers and independent repair are consistently well over 50%. We don’t separate parts sold to independent repair shops from customers, however we do sell to many of them. In a lot of cases the customers come into our stores and purchase the parts for the repair person.

When I asked, our customers, “Do you believe you should have the right to repair your own equipment,” they naturally respond “yes.” However, when I tell them what they already have available to repair their equipment, they too wonder why this Right to Repair legislation is necessary. 

What dealers and manufacturers don’t want is to provide customers and independent repair shops with the ability to access embedded codes and modify critical settings, potentially allowing unsafe machine operation or modification of federally mandated emission controls. On Deere equipment, the critical repairs that customers can’t perform themselves amount to less than 2% of the repairs done on the equipment, and they are the ones that effect safety and emissions. 

Other concerns I have are the negative effects this will cause with manufacturer’s warranties and used equipment values. Equipment can be modified and then set back before the warranty period expires or before the equipment is traded in, without the dealer ever knowing the modification took place. This will impose increased liability on the part of all parties — manufacturers, dealers and the customers as well.  

The safety and additional liabilities this bill imposes on all parties is the main concern, but customer relationships are also a major concern of mine. For 4 generations we have worked hard to build strong customer relations that were built on trust and integrity. Allowing customers to access these embedded codes and modify these machines will destroy that trust. Not knowing if the equipment was modified will make it impossible for us to represent the used equipment with any integrity. Many of these pieces of equipment have been bought and sold again multiple times over a 50-year period. Customers will tell us, if they modify equipment, they don’t expect warranties to be valid. I can speak from years of experience, that doesn’t happen. When they are faced with a $30K to $40K repair bill there will be an argument. What about the customers who buy that piece of used equipment for say $500K and there is a major premature failure because a machine was modified for a period of its life? Who is responsible for that bill? Even more importantly, how do you repair the trust that will be lost between the dealer and customer? Used equipment values will have to be significantly reduced to allow for those possibilities. How will that be good for our customers?

Manufacturers have spent considerable money on research and development to get this equipment to meet Federal EPA emission standards as well as to provide our customers with high tech products to make them more productive and efficient, ultimately adding to their bottom line. At the same time, dealers have had to invest a sizeable amount of money on technician training, tools, part inventories and electronic diagnostic equipment to make sure we keep our customers up and running. To do anything that alters those codes would be counterproductive to these efforts. Dealers have millions of dollars in parts inventories to keep our customers’ equipment up and running. Our customers expect us to not just have fast moving parts or to just order parts when there is need. We have money tied up in parts that might not sell for years or might never sell, but when our customers need them, they expect us to have them.

Our whole industry has made a strong commitment to provide whatever customer or independent repair shops need to do their own repairs, so why do we to need enact legislation that will have negative consequences for all? If a dealer doesn’t provide what is necessary, all the customer needs to do is to contact the manufacturer or the Dealer Association and they will make sure it happens. Most manufacturers also have what customers and independent repair shops need available from them as well. Our Dealership, like many have everything that is available, along with prices on their website. To find our offerings go towww.snpartners.com/service/diy-repairs/   

If enacted, I believe Right to Repair will prove to be counterproductive to the entire industry, especially our customers.

Counterpoint: Montana Farmer Shares Pain Points, Case for R2R

Long down times and excessive cost among frustrations and arguments to allow customers access to diagnostic tools and software. 

Walter Schweitzer, National Farmers Union & Montana Farm Bureau 

Modern technology has many advantages but there are also some disadvantages. Most functions of newer equipment are controlled by electronic control units (ECU) or computers. The ECU has made most equipment operations easier on the operator, but the electronics can cause problems. Most breakdown issues require troubleshooting to determine the problem and programing to pair new parts. Equipment manufacturers utilize laptop computers, special hardware and software to diagnose and repair our equipment. Yet, equipment manufacturers refuse access to these tools to the owners or independent mechanics forcing equipment owners to use manufacturer authorized techs to diagnose and repair equipment.  

Because of lawsuits and proposed legislation, manufacturers have started to allow some access to these tools. These tools are expensive and only allow you to diagnose some of the problems and requires authorized techs to program and pair most new parts. In essence they are allowing some diagnostic tools but still not allowing access to repair. I will share a couple of examples why this is a problem and how it could be easily resolved.

During the summer of 2020, my baling tractor started to randomly shut down while in the field. My instinct told me it was a fuel issue. I replaced fuel filters, started keeping the fuel tank above half full, but the problem continued. I called my dealer’s service manager. He said they would have to connect their computer to determine the problem. OK, I said, send out a mechanic. His techs were all busy and the earliest he could get a tech out was end of next week. I asked if I could borrow the computer? No. Could I rent the computer? No. Alright I will buy it! We don’t sell it. That’s when I realized my tractor was as useful as a $100,000 paper weight. With rain in the forecast, I used a 40-year-old tractor to finish baling.

Meanwhile, my new tractor was hauled to the dealership. The service department hooked up the computer and had someone operate it until it triggered a fault. They only operated it when they had a free tech. A month later they determined it was a faulty fuel sensor and replaced the sensor.  The repair bill was nearly $5,000, and I lost the use of the tractor for a month. The actual cost of the part was about $300, and it took about an hour to replace and program the part. Most of the cost was hauling the tractor and the cost of diagnosing the problem.

At a community event my neighbors shared similar stories. One neighbor said he has traded off his newer equipment for older equipment so he could repair his equipment. The last tractor I purchased is 25 years old with over 10,000 hours. Last summer it paid off. I had this tractor hooked up to a pull-type swather. A red warning light came on, which usually means a serious problem. I called my independent mechanic for advice. Over the phone he helped diagnose the problem. He had me switch a fuse into a specific slot on the fuse block. Turn the key on, move the turn signal 3 times to the right and then pull back on the lever and read the error codes to him. He cross referenced the error code. He determined I had a bad clutch switch. I asked if it was a serious problem. He asked me if the transmission worked, and it did. He said it was probably a faulty sensor and would be OK to use it until I got the new part to replace.  

I called my dealer to see if they had the part in stock and they did not. I called the next closest dealer, about 4 hours away and they did not have the part in stock. I went online and found the part for about $30 and ordered it.  When the part arrived, it took me about an hour to replace the part and the problem was resolved. I had very little down time as I used the tractor until the part came in and my cost of repair was minimal.

There is no reason why I can’t do this on newer equipment except the equipment manufacturer wants to hold me hostage to their service.  Because there are only 3 major farm equipment manufacturers, they still must compete some for the sale of the equipment, but once they sell the equipment, they can hold you hostage to their parts and service.  

I want to be clear that I don’t blame my dealer as they are also held hostage by the equipment manufacturer. Because of dealer consolidation many of the large dealerships are partially owned by the manufacturer. The equipment manufacturer forces all the dealerships to abide by the same rules to benefit their corporate owned stores. In some case they even require dealer techs to login to the manufacturer to program some parts.

Farmers and ranchers have the highest suicide rate of any occupation, including veterans. Farming is stressful. Weather is unpredictable and non-forgiving. I find it therapeutic to fix my own problem. Denying the right to repair to farmers adds stress to an already stress filled occupation. Allowing right to repair will now only make the cost of food production cheaper and more resilient but also may save lives.   


Updated Jan. 9, 2023

NAEDA Comments on John Deere Right to Repair MOU

The North American Equipment Dealers Assn. released the following statement on Jan. 9 in response to the right to repair memorandum of understanding that was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and John Deere:

John Deere and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) relating to Right to Repair. The MOU is an agreement between the parties to formalize the availability and access to parts, tools, software and documentation for the purpose of repair and maintenance.

The MOU builds on the voluntary Industry Commitment previously made by manufacturers and dealers. The MOU provides greater detail relating to what specifically John Deere will make available to farmers and independent repair shops, including Customer Service ADVISOR and access to software, security locks and security related functions for the purpose of repair and maintenance. The MOU specifically provides that this access will not be allowed for the purpose of overriding safety features or emissions criteria.

The MOU reiterates in several provisions that parts, tools, documentation and diagnostics will be made available on fair and reasonable terms. The MOU defines that as the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and the distribution model of any respective item. This does not indicate a departure from the current supply chain model and reflects the existing state of market availability and pricing.

The overall purpose of the MOU is to provide a private sector solution to Right to Repair rather than a legislative or regulatory mandate. The AFBF states their commitment to not pursue legislation and encourages state Farm Bureaus to not support Right to Repair legislation as well.

Kim Rominger, CEO of the North American Equipment Dealers Association, had this to say about the MOU, “This is a positive step in the right direction. NAEDA will be working to learn more about how the MOU will affect dealers and state legislation going forward and will continue to keep dealers informed.”

The MOU was only entered into between John Deere and AFBF, however the agreement leaves open and encourages other manufacturers to join into an agreement with AFBF moving forward.


Updated Jan. 9, 2023

Farm Bureau Signs Right to Repair Memorandum of Understanding with John Deere

According to a Jan. 8 press release, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) signed a memorandum of understanding on Jan. 8 with John Deere, which "ensures farmers’ and ranchers’ right to repair their own farm equipment."

“AFBF is pleased to announce this agreement with John Deere. It 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,” said AFBF president Zippy Duvall. “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. The MOU commits John Deere to ensuring farmers and independent repair facilities have access to many of the tools and software needed to grow the food, fuel and fiber America’s families rely on.”

David Gilmore, John Deere senior vice president, Ag & Turf Sales & Marketing said, “This agreement reaffirms the longstanding commitment Deere has made to ensure our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to make many repairs to their machines. We look forward to working alongside the American Farm Bureau and our customers in the months and years ahead to ensure farmers continue to have the tools and resources to diagnose, maintain and repair their equipment.”

The press release states John Deere has committed to meeting twice a year with the AFBF to evaluate their progress, and that the memorandum "has the potential to serve as a model for other manufacturers and AFBF has already begun those discussions."

The memorandum defines the following 5 points as its purpose:

  1. continue to enhance the ability of Farmers to timely control the lawful operation and upkeep of Agricultural Equipment;
  2. assure the timely availability, on Fair and Reasonable terms, of Tools, Specialty Tools, Software and Documentation originating from Manufacturer, and Data from the operation of Agricultural Equipment originating from Manufacturer;
  3. assure that no safety controls or protocols on Agricultural Equipment are compromised through the modification of protective measures installed for the benefit of Agricultural Equipment owners, operators and bystanders;
  4. assure that the intellectual property of Manufacturer, including copyrighted software, is fully protected from illegal infringement through the modification of Embedded Software; and
  5. assure that compliance with federal and state emissions control requirements is not compromised through changes to power ratings or other modification of control measures installed for the purpose of complying with the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws and regulations. 

Click here to read the entire memorandum of understanding.


Updated Dec. 28, 2022

Farmer Right-to-Repair Perspective: Train Us to Fix Our Equipment

During a farmer panel at this year’s Ag Equipment Intelligence Executive Briefing, 3 farmers sat down to talk about their concerns heading into 2023, and one topic that came up was their ability to repair their own equipment.

Jim Leverich, who no-tills around 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Sparta, Wis., thought one solution to the issue could be farmers hiring their own techs or dealers providing repair training to growers, particularly as dealers struggle with a technician shortage.

“Every time we take a truck or tractor in, it’s $175-200 an hour to get something serviced. Many of us could do that ourselves, or we could hire a technician on our own farms to do it, but we can’t get the software,” he said. “There’s a continual fight about that in Iowa.

“Sometimes you think they’re going to proceed and actually be able to allow farmers to do that again. The days of being able to control some of those costs by doing it yourself are out the window right now. Some of these companies would be better off if they actually had training sessions because most of the dealers can’t afford enough technicians or can’t get enough technicians.

“You’ve got this poor guy running from farm to farm trying to keep tractors running and a lot of this stuff we could learn how to do. There’s several farmers I know who are really good at doing things like that, but they’re not able to get the software, so they can’t fix it. I know there’s liability involved for them when they do that, but something’s got to change because we can’t keep having all this computer-controlled equipment without being able to fix it.”

Click here to purchase access to this year’s panels and hear the rest of the panel’s discussion.


Updated Dec. 16, 2022

The Repair Association Says ‘Fight is Far From Over’ on R2R Legislation

A Dec. 14, 2022 article published in Alberta Farmer quotes Gay Gordon-Byrne, head of The Repair Association, as saying “the writing is on the wall in other states and I think you’ll see it in a couple of provinces as well. This is not going to stand up for very much longer.”

This was a follow up to her congratulations to Eric Wareham and the North American Equipment Dealers Association in having successfully lobbied against right to repair legislation that has been introduced in 42 states and 2 provinces. To date, no legislation that has been introduced has passed.

According to the report, the comments were made during a webinar hosted by the Canada West Foundation. 

“You don’t say, ‘Well I bought my Microsoft Office suite — I own it and I should be able to do whatever I want with it. You license it — that’s the world that we live in. I think their position that you should have 100 per cent access to everything is unreasonable and I think legislators tend to agree with that as well,” Wareham said in reply. 

You can read the full article here


Updated Dec. 12, 2022

John Deere Asks Judge to Dismiss Right-to-Repair Lawsuit

According to a recent memorandum , John Deere has asked an Illinois federal judge to dismiss the class action lawsuit which alleges that the company is requiring repairs and maintenance to be completed only by affiliated John Deere dealerships, and therefore prohibiting farmers and independent repair shops from working on the equipment. According to a Dec. 9,2022 Law 360 article , John Deere has stated that the proposed lawsuit is trying to stretch antitrust laws to support their claims and that the lawsuit has several other accusations which lack standing.

"Plaintiffs are trying to warp the antitrust laws to accomplish what they cannot in the market. This court should not approve that effort. Rather, it should dismiss this case on the pleadings," John Deere says.

The company also stated in the memorandum that the plaintiffs cannot plead a plausible relevant market or a plausible relevant aftermarket. "Given its proposed market, the plaintiffs' proposed class is facially overbroad," John Deere says.

John Deere went further to say the proposed class argues that "federal antitrust laws compel Deere to give all of its proprietary repair tools and software to anyone who happens to want them."

Another argument that John Deere is making is that they have always been upfront about the fact that certain repairs must be completed by affiliated dealers specifically because many of the newer models of tractors are more technologically advanced and will require an authorized technician to ensure that the programming for the tractors' electronic control units is completed correctly.

"Anticompetitive conduct is that conduct which 'has little or no value beyond the capacity to protect the monopolist's market power,'" John Deere says. "That proves a poor fit where, as here, a company is creating a market for others (i.e., authorized dealers) that would not otherwise exist, as opposed to protecting an existing market for its own benefit."


Updated Dec. 9, 2022

NAEDA Addresses Standing Committee on Industry and Technology in Canada Regarding Right-to-Repair Bill

The North American Equipment Dealers Assn. (NAEDA) appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology in Canada on Nov. 14, 2022, to discuss their concerns/opposition to Bill C-244. 

According to a report from RealAgriculture.com, "Bill C-244  — introduced by B.C. Liberal MP Wilson Miao in February of this year — has passed second reading in the House of Commons and is currently under review by the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology."

In addition to allowing the circumvention of digital locks, the bill would also allow the manufacturing, importing, and sale of technologies or devices that can be used to diagnose, maintain, and repair products that have internal software protections.

The bill does not specifically refer to any type of product. As written, it’s seen as applying to anything with internal software that limits someone’s ability to repair it. In other words, it could apply to everything from microwaves to vehicles to farm machinery.

Speaking to the committee, NAEDA President John Schmeiser said, " We oppose Bill C-244. In it's current form, it doesn’t take into consideration the industry commitment to support customer repair, and has unintended safety, environmental and cybersecurity consequences for the Canadian agricultural industry.”

He added, "“f Bill C-244 passes in its current form, this will open the door to widespread altering of emissions systems, as there will be open access to the software. Additionally, with access to the software you will create many safety hazards. As an example, a tractor’s brakes are designed for maximum speed of 40 kilometres per hour. However, with access to the software that speed can be increased to as high as 70 kilometres per hour.”

NAEDA reccomends the following change to the bill:

Nothing in Bill C-244 shall apply to:

1. A manufacturer, distributor, importer, or dealer of any off-road (non-road) equipment, including but not limited to farm and utility tractors, forestry equipment, construction equipment, mining equipment, and any tools, technology, attachments, accessories, components and repair parts for any of the foregoing.

Read more on NAEDA's testimony here


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?

Representative Hayden?

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.

John Deere Customer Service Advisor

 

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.

 

Right to Repair legislative activity 2022


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:

The plaintiffs are suing for violations of the Sherman Act Sections 1 & 2 for group boycott, unlawful tying arrangement, monopolization, monopoly leveraging, attempted monopolization in the alternative, conspiracy to monopolize, and for declaratory and injunctive relief, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment.

The plaintiff is seeking class certification, judgment as dictated in the Sherman Act, injunctive relief, damages, treble damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief. 

 


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 would give farmers and independent repair shops the tools to disable and re-enable an electronic security lock or other security-related functions to effect diagnostics, repair, or maintenance.

"Third-party software would have the ability to provide interoperability with other parts and tools if the legislation becomes law, and to protect farmer data and equipment from hacking."

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.


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."


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:

You can find the full complaint here

 


Related Right to Repair Content

Does Forest River Farms Suit Against Deere Have Legs to Stand On?

[Podcast] Talking Right to Repair with the Hot Rod Farmer Ray Bohacz

Biden to Issue Executive Order on Right to Repair

Congress Introduces Federal Right to Repair

What You Need to Know About Illegal Tampering & the Right to Repair Movement

Right to Repair Rears Its Ugly Head

The Ag Equipment Repair Debate: Is It About R2R or R2M?

Manufacturers, Dealers Commit to Providing Service Information by 2021