SPECIAL TO FARM EQUIPMENT (From Lessiter Media 'Grower Division' Editorial Director Frank Lessiter)
Editor’s Note: This story is a follow up to "Farm Equipment's Editors Debate Right to Repair." Lessiter Media Inc., now in its 42nd year of independent and family ownership, is uniquely positioned in the Right to Repair (R2R) debate. Company Founder and Editorial Chairman Frank Lessiter has a 62-year career as an ag journalist.
The company’s farmer-facing properties include the flagship No-Till Farmer (Lessiter has served as editor in chief on each monthly edition in the title’s 51-year history), Strip-Till Farmer, Cover Crop Strategies and Farm Innovations for Today’s Top Farm Operator (a pictorial guide to the newest independent, or shortline, product innovations each year).
Also, since 2004, Lessiter Media has owned and operated a separate business-to-business Farm Equipment Division, consisting today of Farm Equipment, Rural Lifestyle Dealer, Precision Farming Dealer and Ag Equipment Intelligence.
The content that follows presents a unique vantage point in all of agricultural media. Here, the content leaders of the two divisions – and on each side of the chasm – express their respective audience’s arguments on this R2R debate.
When farmers were asked in an exclusive Lessiter Media email survey what they thought of the current right-to-repair issues, they didn’t hold back in voicing their opinions, feelings, thought and ideas.
As you will see from the 133 write-in comments below, most of these growers don’t believe that what manufacturers and dealers are proposing in the right-to-repair situation is in the best interests of American agriculture. Their comments have been separated into 11 dozen categories for easier reading on your part.
If you would like to express your thoughts on the right-to-repair issue and have them added to this document, simply email them to Frank Lessiter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Right-to-Repair Issues Don’t Favor Farmers
1 At one time there might have been an equitable solution to the right-to-repair issue, but we are obviously past that point. The further down the electronics trail we went, the more complicated it got. I’m starting to think that we need to move beyond right-to-repair and go straight to right to replace. If we as farmers don’t like what the OEM has done, then we need an alternative to replace it. It’s well within our means to design and build our own display replacements. There are already programs available like GPS that can be built for about $3,000 with RTK accuracy and no subscription payments. I find the “replace idea” much more agreeable than trying to move Deere in the direction I want.
2 This is a power grab. My local truck repair guy laments all the roadblocks he faces from the manufacturers when he tries to fix vehicles.
3 I am an advocate of returning farmers’ rights to grow, harvest and make decisions accordingly. We have been overtaken by big ag with patented food, seed and GMO systems. I also don’t feel protected from the unbridled use of this information when it comes to USDA marketing forecasts. We are small organic farmers in central Illinois and feel lucky to not to have to deal directly with the nonsense going on in large-scale farming. Smaller in this case is easier to navigate.
4 This whole subscription-based use is nothing but a money grab for manufacturer shareholders and dealerships. In the case of Deere, it is also cherry picking who owns the dealerships with the multi-store conglomerates that have done nothing but drive-up equipment, parts and service prices with less competition. While many of the fixes/upgrades of the past came from farmers or third parties who improved their equipment, we can no longer do this. All this digital rights business that says others own our equipment is wrong and needs to stop. That never was the issue in the past. Once we buy it, it should be ours to use and modify as we need.
5 It should be my decision whether to have a dealer repair my machine or not, as I own it.
6 Farmers who want to stay in business must adapt and embrace changing techniques, environmental impacts, costs of operational impacts from the global marketplace and constantly be adjusting their business models to be sensitive to changing regenerative, legislative and political initiatives.
Right-to-repair is based upon the most basic of principals in independent business operations and that is self-reliance. If equipment is manufactured and owned by the state and the liability for productivity is absorbed by the government, then the producer can just sit back and prop his feet up until the equipment is serviced.
Equipment manufacturers must change with the times as well. Unfortunately, they participate in the global marketplace and are restricting access to their engineering technology through the software data, which is vital to their operational designs. Producers will have no choice if they want to remain in business but to go to the black market for information and technology.
In addition, many dealers do not have sufficiently trained and readily available technicians to service what they sell. This is a serious condition that pits dealers against farmers and ranchers. Producers understand risk management all too well and for many, the risk that they can’t overcome and still remain profitable is time. This is a battle for self-reliance, accountability and balancing risk. If equipment manufacturers want to stay in business, they also must adapt to this changing environment.
7 It is not the dealer’s responsibility to keep me running, as I need to have parts on hand and the equipment well serviced. When catastrophic breakdowns occur, we have to figure out how best to handle them. But I want the ability to determine whomever I want to get my machine back up and running.
8 As with anything, the understanding of how machinery operates can greatly enhance useability and decrease operational downtime. However, today’s high-tech machinery often requires a deeper understanding of electronics, electricity, computers, software, firmware and the interactions between all of them. Trying to remedy malfunctions with a pair of pliers and baling wire won’t cut it in today’s world. That said, there are a number of functions that — if they could be bypassed or temporarily overridden — could help the operator perform or finish a critical job in a pinch.
9 I’ve heard stories of farmers being threatened by dealers to shut up about right-to-repair or they might not get service. One opposing farmer said the quote he got for new equipment was substantially higher than a neighbor got for the same unit. Dealer retaliation is unacceptable in my book. If this is how some dealers operate, it’s no wonder they can’t get people to work for them. People are a resource to be cultivated and not an expense to be minimized or exploited.
10 It’s sad how an organization like Deere has become so adversarial with its customers. At some point they had the chance to develop a win-win policy, but instead decided to just take advantage of farmers, which is not out of character for them. I know of farmers that have been threatened with legal notices from Deere for importing European model tractors for their own use. Why Deere cares is beyond me.
11 Why is Deere singled out in this? They probably have the best “service advisor” program out there, whereas other companies have nothing.
12 It’s a fine line, kind of like folks who want all the videos from a conference for free vs. having to pay to go to the conference.
13 Why is this even a controversy? I prefer to have major repairs done by farm equipment dealers.
14 I was on a USAID project in Ghana. For 2weeks, we tried to adjust a clutch on a 200 hp tractor and never got it right. I met an AGCO rep at the hotel, told him the problem and he said I would never get the specs from the company, but that he would send me a copy of the page that called for a space the thickness of a hacksaw blade. I sent that information to the farm mechanics and the tractor was working the next week on this 1,200-acre pineapple farm.
15 Many dealers do not have the staff to service their customers. We need alternatives.
16 Nothing is more frustrating than having a sensor malfunction when it is crunch time and then having to wait for the dealer to schedule time to remedy the issue.
17 When I buy something, I feel it’s mine to do with what I want, but I am not competent to repair the computer stuff. I can understand why manufacturers and dealers don’t want to repair what I may have unfixed with ignorance.
18 Farmers who have the ability to work on the equipment should be allowed to do so.
19 Right-to-repair has my full attention and the more irritated I get, the more involved I get. I’m in a unique position as a farmer and an electrical engineer specializing in embedded systems. I’ve worked in automotive, aerospace and industrial controls.
If I’m properly motivated, I can reverse-engineer a module right down to the bare IC dies, micrograph them, extract bit patterns and more. I don’t think any OEM wants their module information published on the internet for the world to see.
What Repair Work Do Growers Want to Handle?
20 Since I own my equipment, I’ll do whatever repairs want to it. Why should I have to get a dealer to reset a New Holland oil change reminder interval or enter calibration data when I change fuel injectors on my Deere tractor? In fact, Deere has been moving in the direction of serializing and locking certain parts and sensors into the controllers so they can’t be changed without software.
21 I’m not going to waste my time messing with some of these new products. Make a mistake and the cost for repair isn’t worth it. Look at it as if you open the hood on your new car and wonder what you can do.
22 We do pretty much everything repair-wise, except for fine tuning the equipment. I need to know how to get that done, even though I have no formal training.
23 Doing repairs on the DEF systems and troubleshooting codes.
24 Be able to replace components that do not require software such as hydraulics, exhaust, material handling, headers, auto adjusting components, etc.
25 Determine source cause of “failure messages” and ability to replace the defective part no matter what it is (electrical, sensor, hydraulic, etc.)
26 Trouble shooting concerns is what we need to be able to do on our own.
27 Any repairs that I wish to try. Will I tear into working on an automatic transmission? Probably not.
28 If a farmer is qualified to do major repairs, he should be able to purchase the software and training to make the repairs.
29 Diagnose and repair all issues that can be done on the farm, including dealing with major software updates that dealers say can only be done by a technician.
30 I want to be able to diagnose and repair my own equipment without having to have the dealer do it, yet have the tractor’s software recognize the new parts.
31 It is a matter of trust and downtime. If I could diagnose and repair a simple problem without involving the dealer, I’d prefer to do that for a myriad of reasons. Allowing me to diagnose the problem would help me decide if I had the skills and resources to make the necessary repairs.
32 Adjustments to the system such as clutch adjustments, idle speed changes, being able to install mechanical parts and not having to call a dealer to come calibrate the machine. Growers need the ability to read more in-depth codes to determine whether a problem is an immediate concern or one that can be addressed at a less busy time.
33 I prefer to have major repairs done by farm equipment dealers as I don’t have the tools, expertise, assistance, or indoor shop to do the work.
34 Fuel controls, DEF system, software upgrades, implement integration data from manufacturers, etc.
35 Prefer to have major repairs done by farm equipment dealers.
36 If we can diagnose problems such as error codes that may be due to a bad sensor or something similar, it would save major expense and time, especially during rushed times.
37 Welding, replacing bearings and circuit boards, general repairs and testing components.
38 This might be a concern if I can’t diagnose any problems to see what might need to be done. We are capable of doing minor repairs but leave the big jobs to the pros. The problem is that dealerships can’t get to the repairs in a timely fashion.
I’ve been waiting on a sprayer and combine inspection for 4 months and didn’t get the sprayer done before sidedressing wheat time arrived.
39 Many farms have shops that equal those of dealerships, but growers lack the needed repair training and technology expertise. I’m not looking for free repairs, but often need immediate help. When my wheat is ready for harvest and high winds are coming, I need my combine in the field.
Independent Repair Shops Need Ag Equipment Software
40 While I would like to be able to do more repairs on my own, the bigger benefit is allowing third party mechanics to run their own repair shops and work on newer equipment. While I have had good experiences with many manufacturer’s techs, there are times when I’ve had issues, as I often don’t get a say in which tech the dealers send out. With third party shops we can often build better relationships.
41 My biggest concern is the ability of an independent repair shop to make repairs on newer high technology equipment. Dealers are having trouble getting and keeping service techs. Independent repair shops can sometimes provide better service.
42 The current situation is due to corporate greed. Software should be made available by manufacturers to independent service companies.
43 It should be less about repair prohibitions and more about the cost and expertise needed to do it, whether it is myself or a third party.
44 I’d like to see independent mechanics have the ability to take factory-certified training at a reasonable cost and have the ability to purchase repair software.
45 My farm shop is inadequate to make major repairs, but I would like to have a choice as to where my repairs are performed.
46 Independent repair people need the ability to do repairs. Dealers are having trouble getting enough technicians and are backed up at times so the ability to get repairs done in a timely manner my require us to go to an independent repair shop.
47 My son worked for a Case IH dealer before starting his own repair shop business. He is often called to repair tractors the dealer is too busy to fix for a week or more during critical cropping times. He has the computer software to repair most tractors, except John Deere.
We live 75 miles from the nearest dealer of any brand. Dealers should be allowed to say who performs warranty work, where it can be done and if the transport cost is also paid on warranty issues.
48 It is a monopoly when information is withheld with demands that only repairs and, in some cases, maintenance require a cash payment to the dealer. Many independent farm equipment repair shops are fully capable of assisting with repairs and maintenance.
49 For the last 30 years, I’ve run an independent farm repair and equipment upgrading shop specializing in retrofitting older no-till planters and Gleaner combines. Unfortunately the cost of the Gleaner repair software outweighs the benefit it would bring to my business.
There’s a lot of technology, but you’ve got to have the manufacturer’s computer program and a lot of companies won’t allow you to have that, or it’s very costly. With Gleaner combines, we explored having the capability to hook up to an engine for troubleshooting. But if we were only doing this 2-3 times a year, it wasn’t worth our time and effort to invest $20,000 in the software programs along with a yearly subscription.
It’s a double-edged sword. You need to be able to support the customer, but when you don’t have that capability, you’ve got to have a dealership technician drive to the farm, hook up a computer up and say 2 minutes later, “Okay, your code is cleared. We’re going to go ahead and try it again, make sure it works.” Sometimes, it might be something as simple as a sensor, but you can’t fix it.
In my area, the nearest Gleaner dealer is an hour away. So I feel confident that we’re not infringing on any dealer’s income.
Repair Software Costs are Excessive
50 Having the software to diagnose a problem is the most critical part of this discussion. Waiting on a technician to get to the machine to diagnose a problem, then waiting for parts and a return visit from the technician is the biggest problem. If we could diagnose and document the problem, then when the technician gets to the machine, they already have the parts to get it running. Downtime is the most expensive part of this discussion.
51 Software needs to come with the maintenance manuals when the machine is purchased. Even then this is bogus technology that is quickly outdated when newer models are introduced.
52 The cost of the software should be built into the purchase price. How about charging the same price for the software as for a shop manual?
53 We need to be able to use aftermarket diagnostic equipment.
54 With every equipment purchase, the owner’s manual, software and repair and maintenance information should be available to the owner. Claiming that the customer is incapable of managing the equipment is a slap in the face. With the information in electronic form, there is virtually no cost to the manufacture to make the repair manuals and software available to the owner.
55 While right-to-repair gets very controversial, how many farmers would actually spend the money for all the tech manuals special equipment and software for each tractor model and combine? How could they justify that cost? It looks to me like it would be cheaper to have the dealer’s technician come to the farm and repair it.
56 Producers should have access to the training and tools at a fair price to repair everything outside of modifying emissions and safety items such as steering, braking, speed should not be up for debate.
57 It is appropriate for manufacturers to offer tools and training to the general public at a margin that is similar to the products they sell. The farmer should determine if the benefit is enough for the price being paid.
58 All software required to service a tractor needs to be included in the pricing.
More dollars tacked on to an outrageously high purchase helps the manufacturer and not the farmer.
59 In this climate of corporate financial windfalls, manufacturers need to cover the cost or minimally share the cost so it does not fall totally on the farmer.
60 A service manual for mechanical repairs and an error code table for electrical “remove and replace” should be provided for quicker repair. Software changes should not be needed nor are they understood by most growers.
61 Microsoft used to sell all of its software programs, but now they prefer to lease them to you or limit the duration of products use so you have to buy new or renew the software agreements annually. Unless you decide to not use Microsoft products or buy them at a set price, you are at their mercy, as there’s no competitive market. I see this as a trend that is happening in the ag equipment sector. Owning the technology gives OEMs too much power over buying and service decisions and without competition, the costs to repair may be inflated.
62 I would be willing to invest in the software, but the high price does make me gag. I priced a new planter last year and there was a several thousand-dollar charge to “unlock” the electronics. This is poor marketing and dealers should include the charge in the total price.
63 Sometimes there are minor calibration steps that need to be done that are hidden from the farmer, such as simple combine calibrations.
64 Why should the software cost so much or so little... unless OEMs have to finance writing new tools for farmers. I’d like to know why this is so much different than automotive or trucking. Oh, right, their lobby and repair industry is much bigger. Even the computer industry has had motherboard BIOS firmware that has had fail safe updating for over 15 years now. If an Ag OEM can’t even do that in the ECU, they’ve got problems. I know the trucking industry has the capability. Besides, $3,000 is an expense and not an investment.
65 Software issues are huge! The new technology is great when it works, but it does not always work. As an example, we bought a new John Deere 780 combine. When the combine was delivered to the dealer, they couldn’t unload it off trailer as it wouldn’t move due to a software glitch. They had the combine for 6 weeks before it was delivered. And there were more upgrades during harvest.
66 Parts are expensive enough that manufacturers should provide repair software at no charge. The reliability of most new tractors, choppers and combines has deteriorated during the last decade, and that’s not the farmers fault.
67 We do all repairs in our shop, such as electrical, hydraulic, engine, transmission, etc. Every machine we buy comes with all of the necessary repair manuals and parts books or we buy elsewhere.
68 There are no repairs that are prohibited that I want the ability to address myself.
Issues revolving around the world of software will never be a strength of mine. I recognize the incredible value it brings to my operation and utilize it heavily.
However, spending my time trying to develop a skill set for something that doesn’t play to my natural strengths is a waste of my energy. I’m much more interested in further developing my strengths and outsourcing my weaknesses. That being said, my concern isn’t the right to work on today’s modern machinery but having adequate people trained and available to work on my machinery when I encounter a problem that is beyond my ability to correct.
69 With today’s computers, a machine’s diagnostic history and probability of failure details should be available to customers along.
70 Manufacturers could be more proactive by providing customers with a limited amount of training on how to diagnose and possibly repair their own machines. This attitude could work in their favor by enticing a customer to purchase their brand of equipment.
71 It is interesting that the designs to move so heavily to electronics bring silly issues. A dealer told me last year about a large tractor that died on the side of the road. It was very difficult to tow because of the tractor’s fancy transmission. It turned out that the stereo radio in the cab stereo had shorted out and the engine run module was shared with the cab stereo. That is a pretty poor design concept.
72 I want anything computer-related to be done by the dealer. I don’t understand those problems or issues anyway so I see this as a non-issue for me.
73 I’ve been acquiring more machining equipment to make more of my own parts and build my own equipment. If right-to-repair efforts fail to gain traction, subsequent generations can look back and say “Wow, we can’t even do half that now because the OEMs won’t let us.”
74 Anyone should have the right-to-repair any equipment that they have purchased and have the right to purchase manuals, parts and software at reasonable prices.
75 Manufacturers have a right to protect source code or patented designs as they have spent a vast amount of time and capitol developing them.
76 The best tractor or piece of farm machinery is the one working in the field. It’s no fun on a Saturday afternoon when wheat is ready to harvest, the rains are coming and the combine suddenly develops a problem. You call the dealer, but they already have several repair calls to deal with, so what are you to do?
Part of the problem could be solved with utilizing “telemedicine” concepts for repairs as the newer farm machines contain huge amount of electronics, The machine operator would have a has a cell phone in his pocket, so he can get the machine to report its own problems to the dealer. Many of today’s automobiles have self-diagnostics that report back to the dealer.
Numerous repair problems could be addressed before they become an issue and the needed parts could be on the dealer’s parts counter or in the mail.
There is already a shortage of repair technicians that have the training and ability to diagnose and repair this quickly-changing technology.
77 If I want to add lights to a machine that didn’t include that option at delivery, then access to “turn on those lights” would have to come through a computer plug-in. If I want to recalibrate the three-point hitch when the sensor is worn, that requires a computer connection to adjust for wear.
If diagnostic information can be obtained through a computer, then I can decide if the repair really needs technical knowledge. Many repairs do not require highly-trained technicians to replace the part or components.
The art of repair has been replaced with component replacement. Many components require calibration. An example is a turbo actuator, which is not a hugely technical part to replace, but requires computer recalibration. And the list goes on and on.
Emission Concerns Are Major Issue for Manufacturers
78 Most of the reason behind this issue is EPA stuff, as manufacturers are regulated to enforce the EPA requirements for emissions.
79 I don’t like the anti-competitive behavior coming from big companies. They aren’t against us repairing our own equipment, but they don’t want us modifying the exhaust system, as they are liable for the amount of emissions that each engine produces. Once they allow any emission modifications, then you can’t get that horse back in the barn.
80 It is baloney that the government requires tractors to have emission control parts on the tractors. There are not enough tractors in the world to cause any kind of pollution that would require this. The emissions control parts on the tractor cause the biggest problems, and most technicians at the dealers only guess at what repairs are needed and throw various parts on them, hoping for a fix.
If I don’t want it on a tractor that I own that is only operating on my property, then it shouldn’t matter if it is on or not. I should have the right to remove it and modify the tractor as I see fit.
Warranty, Liability Modification Issues
81 This is a limited concern as the selling dealer should be able to determine if a modification was made. Manufacturers should be able to design a system that can determine if a repair was made that would void the warranty.
82 I’m not concerned with equipment modifications unless the small print in a contract indicates the previous owner is vulnerable to lawsuits because he did some work to keep the equipment running.
83 It’s not important because warranties are limited in scope and time.
84 If the farmer raises the hp and then trades the tractor later, sells it outright or has a farm sale, and the machine fails in some way, or somebody gets hurt or worse, who’s liable — the dealer or farmer, and to what extent?
85 People who are unscrupulous enough to modify emissions and safety items are probably not going to have deep pockets or the appropriate insurance to correct the problems they cause. It is naïve to think that when problems arise from people doing things wrong, they will turn around and do the right thing when problems arise.
86 Many farmers won’t touch an altered machine.
87 With warranties, actual machine usage is much more important than a time limit. As an example, Deere years ago produced a series of tractors with IVT transmissions that were prone to failure, the repair fixes didn’t work and there should have been a total recall. A grower who purchased one of these tractors may only operate it 200 hours per year, then not see the failure until 10 years down the road compared to the producer that operates his tractor 1,000-2000 hours per year.
This will put the first producer too far down the road for any warranty or policy allowances because of a time barrier rather than actual hour usage. Thanks to my local dealer’s service manager, I was alerted to the failure potential of the transmission.
Manufacturer and dealers already have a pretty good wall to hide behind, allowing them free reign on repair charges. Hiding behind the right-to-repair content is just not a fair market practice.
88 It is wrong when a manufacturer decides something is so obsolete that it can no longer be repaired even when there is plenty of useful life left in the equipment. We still have equipment in service from the 1950s.
89 It can be a concern if the horsepower is turned up to the point of damaging components.
90 It isn’t really an issue for me, as I have dealt with the previous modifications that were made on some purchased used equipment.
91 I’m very concerned about modifications voiding the warranty.
92 As long as everyone is up front, the lability falls on whoever altered the machine.
93 Equipment modifications are a liability concern, but not a major worry even though we are second owners of most of our equipment.
94 We don’t modify our equipment beyond what is allowed by warranty. However, it has been and will continue to be something a potential purchaser of used equipment should watch for.
95 That can be a concern, but if it’s been done, it will eventually be discovered.
96 It is concerning if the first buyer made repairs to the machine.
97 Modification comes with knowing the risks on the back end.
98 Modifying complicated machines is not an issue for me, but I can see why it might be for others.
99 I don’t see warranty concerns being an issue because you don’t need to do anything to the tractor until the warranty has expired. Training is not an issue, as I have always been able to read and figure out how to do the repair work.
The biggest pitfall I see is if the manufacturers make the software available only with an expensive subscription to use as a way to slow or prevent the right-to-repair.
If I bought a new tractor, modified it and wanted to trade it in, that is the risk I would take.
100 I’m willing to take the risk with making any modifications.
101 If a machine has been modified, most often it’s for a good reason.
102 We buy machinery at an exorbitant price, so we should have the right to the software, right to modify it and the right-to-repair it. We are not going to do anything unsafe to the machine. I’m tired of the huge amount of time that dealerships take to repair equipment and the tens of thousands of dollars they charge to repair machinery I’ve purchased. This is especially a concern if the equipment is not operational when I receive delivery of that supposedly new or updated equipment.
103 Modifying a machine always opens the door to future questions. It can be as simple as removing or modifying the ROPS on a tractor. The dealer would need to bring the safety device back to government standards before selling the unit so growers need to be aware of the consequences.
104 Should anyone be concerned with any deficiencies when they trade a machine in? I believe in the past some of my machines were missing pto shields, warning lights and faded SMV signs These are all safety items, so where do we draw the line as to whose liability it is for what is defective or deficient?
We used to weld brackets to roll over protection bars, which altered the machine. Some growers added larger tires on so the machine would go faster. That was an alteration that could have been deemed unsafe.
105 Certain things might void the warranty or could create a safety issue, which could be controlled. The automotive industry went through this modification issue years ago, and I believe the information is now available for to almost anyone to repair their own cars.
106 How concerning is liability for a car or truck that the first buyer may have modified, and the impact that could have on your trade-in value? I have no concern at all for this silly argument.
107 If I bought and paid for the machine, why can’t I fix or modify it in the way I would like?
Technician Shortages, Lack of Training are Critical
108 We’ve had poor experience with supposedly well-trained service technicians. I can watch the training videos and do the repairs more conscientiously than a tech who is only there for the paycheck and is not vested in my equipment or my farming operation.
109 Major manufacturers are consolidating dealer locations and their techs are stretched thinner and thinner. Downtime waiting for techs is becoming a bigger problem especially since a lot of the time techs arrive, plug their computers into the tractor, find the problem in minutes and are on their way while the farmer has lost half a day or more of productivity.
110 It’s a complicated issue, but with shop and tech time costing $100 to over $150 per hour something needs to be done. Many farmers have the ability fix the equipment if the information is available, or they can have independents handle the repairs. Computer chips from independent companies are available to increase horsepower and improve fuel efficiency.
111 Relatively simple fixes that have to be done by company techs often only take a few minutes but you may wait hours for a tech to get to you.
112 I’ve had techs try to service my equipment fleet without any knowledge of the repair problems. They wasted my time and charged ridiculous prices.
113 Repairs are often delayed by a lack of technician availability while we lose a critical harvest opportunity. Then rain or bad weather causes more losses.
114 Our area does not have enough dealer remote support to repair equipment quickly during busy times of the season. Plus, the cost of the remote repair and in house dealer repairs are very expensive.
115 It’s not about having the right to protect income for the dealer, but the importance of keeping my equipment running. Sometimes the dealer has really poor human resources capacity, are short of techs and have no one to respond to my repair needs.
Manufacturers Have Right to Protect Their Technology
116 OEMs can do whatever they want as long as it’s disclosed to the customer that the OEM has total control. I’m not convinced that what they offer is that sophisticated. It’s more likely a jumbled mess that they prefer never sees the light of day. Ultimately it always comes back to control. Who actually owns the equipment? Deere for example often uses the word “our,” as their perception of who really owns my tractor.
The incident with Deere remotely disabling the stolen Ukrainian tractors woke a lot of people up. It put the spotlight on Deere’s Operation Center software and the cell modems installed in each tractor and combine. Tech people have looked into this and found that it’s very easy to hack. Of course, Deere denies this is possible. The Operation Center software is a very powerful control tool that they are also monitoring.
It’s been proven that Deere uses it to geofence its equipment and collect data. They’ve boasted that they have data on something like 13million acres. After learning this, some farmers have disconnected their tractor and combine cell modems. Deere isn’t the only one, as Kubota and Case IH have similar systems.
117 Deere has the option for farmers to purchase “Service Advisor” services, even though many folks thought they should provide it for free. On the flip side, Deere has to protect the equipment so folks don’t change engine programming that could ruin tractor and combine engines.
Government Rules, Legal Intervention Would Be Wrong
118 If the government or courts decide right-to-repair issues, the odds are against dealers and manufacturers because they do not understand what’s really happening the farm. Sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone.
119 Government intervention will not make things better, as most right-to-repair proponents have ulterior motives that seek to benefit themselves rather than trying to make the situation better.
120 It’s all about control and anti-right-to-repair. That’s why they have multiple lawsuits filed by farmer and why the Department of Justice has shown interest in this issue. I’m interested in those lawsuits because I believe Deere’s arguments will fail miserably. In the process, it will have profound consequences for the rest of the ag tech industry, which has been using similar tactics against their customers.
121 Unfortunately, it may take a decade for all this to play out, and I’m fairly certain Deere dealers will be left to fend for themselves.
122 Anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws should apply to right-to-repair issues.
The Deere, Case IH, New Holland and American Farm Bureau Federation Memorandum of Understandings
123 The Deere and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) memorandum of understanding (MOU) was a brilliant legal move by Deere to stop the organization from promoting any right to-repair concerns. It’s all covered in section III of the MOU and I believe that language is all that Deere really wanted in return for what I heard was contributing $100,000 to the AFBF annual meeting.
It was a “wink-wink” move to get Farm Bureau out of the right-to-repair game. The result should have outraged Farm Bureau members that realized that they just got sold out by the organization that is supposed to represent their interests. I’m outraged and not even a member — and never will be.
124 There are no legal teeth whatsoever in the MOU agreement and history proves Deere has reneged in the past. They previously promised to provide farmers with access to certain tools and it was a lie. I expect nothing less this time except as an effort to buy them more time in regard to right-to-repair issues. Deere is rapidly burning goodwill among its customers as more people find out what they have been doing to maintain control of access to customer’s wallets.
125 It’s interesting that Colorado has passed right-to-repair legislation when the American Farm Bureau was against it. Deere has clearly bought AFBS support with a deal that was much less beneficial to farmers.
126 I like the agreement between the American Farm Bureau and Deere. It gives producers some flexibility and access while John Deere is preserving their intellectual property.
127 There needs to be much more than just a memorandum of understanding.
The Value of Running Older Equipment
128 While we run older equipment and do all of our own repairs, I can see both sides to this story. How many farm shops really have the equipment and experience to do this work? When equipment is out of warranty, it is up to the grower on how it can be repaired.
129 I’m a retired collision repair shop owner whose farming interests involve recreational food plots. The insurance company was never clear in the automobile industry as to the formulas used for totaling or repairing a vehicle. It seemed that each insurance company in different states could do what they wanted and usually not in the owner’s interests. My thoughts are to make all states uniform for right-to-repair work on ag equipment.
130 This is the reason I own very little late model equipment. If I have to pay an exorbitant price for the initial purchase, I should own the technology and have the right to either repair it myself or use a reputable shop other than the dealership.
If this were the way, perhaps equipment wouldn’t be over-engineered with unnecessary technology.
It is my choice is to play by their rules or not play at all. I’m choosing the latter.
131 I intentionally run older equipment so this is not an issue for me.
132 I will not buy a new tractor for this reason. I only run old stuff that I can repair myself.
133 At this point, it is not a major issue because none of my tractors or harvesting equipment is new enough to have computer technology, but that will change.
- Right-to-Repair Battle Heats Up: R2R is a controversial topic we felt needed extensive coverage and a subject that the general ag media doesn’t appear to have the courage to report on due to worries about picking sides with the big equipment makers and their advertising budgets. Frank Lessiter breaks down the controversy in this staff column. Read more...
- Farm Equipment's Editors Debate Right to Repair: The content that follows presents a unique vantage point in all of agricultural media. Here, the content leaders of the two divisions – and on each side of the chasm – express their respective audience’s arguments on this R2R debate.
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