5 takeaways from the Michigan tractor Right to Repair hearing

The Michigan tractor Right to Repair bill is the latest state effort to restore farmers’ freedom to fix their equipment. After testifying on HB 4673, it's clear that the campaign isn't going away.

PIRG Right to Repair Campaign Director speaks at a podium in front of a National Farmers Union backdrop.
Kevin O'Reilly

Former Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, PIRG

The Michigan tractor Right to Repair bill is the latest state effort to restore farmers’ freedom to fix their equipment. It’s been a big year for the campaign: 16 other states have considered similar policies, with Colorado being the first to sign one into law.

After testifying in Michigan House Agriculture Committee’s hearing on HB 4673, it’s clear that the momentum for tractor Right to Repair isn’t going anywhere. Here’s 5 takeaways from the hearing.

1. Michigan farmers just want to be able to fix their stuff.

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"You can take your vehicle to an Auto Zone or any other place and they plug in," Jacob Faist, a Jackson County farmer and member of the Michigan Corn Growers Association board of the directors, said in his testimony for HB 4673. "I've certainly never seen anyone who has the ability to come out and scan my tractor other than the dealer."

This past winter, Michigan Rep. Reggie Miller, the lead sponsor of HB 4673 and chair of the House Ag Committee, attended a dinner organized by the Michigan Farm Bureau. “This is what was talked about,” Chair Miller told her colleagues. “They shared their worries around the topic of Right to Repair, explaining how this impacts their lives.”

Bob Thompson, a farmer and president of Michigan Farmers Union, explained why. “As a farmer, I want true repair choice for my farm equipment,” Thompson said. Members of the Potato Growers of Michigan and Michigan Corn Growers also submitted their support of the bill.

2. Manufacturer MOUs aren’t true tractor Right to Repair solutions.

Over the course of the past year, the American Farm Bureau Federation has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) on repair with John Deere, CNH Industrial, Kubota and AGCO. Unfortunately, these agreements are non-binding pinky swears that fail to guarantee comprehensive repair access to independent fixers.

One major flaw with the MOUs is that manufacturers can walk away from their agreement with as little as 15 day’s notice. In his testimony in support of the bill, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring put it this way: “The MOUs are written in pencil, this measure here today puts these things in ink for farmers.”

3. Repair restrictions are costing Michigan Farmers $124 Million per year.

If a farmer’s equipment breaks down at the wrong time and they can’t get it fixed, farmers can be forced to watch as their crop—and their profits—wither on the vine. In my testimony, I shared PIRG research that shows that Right to Repair would save Michigan Farmers an estimated $89 million in avoided downtime and $35 million in repair costs.


4. Dealers are facing a technician shortage. Michigan tractor Right to Repair would help.

“We have a serious shortage of technicians in our industry. And you’ve heard about wait times, mostly attributable to lack of personnel in the dealership,” Eric Wareham of the North American Equipment Dealers Association conceded to the committee. By equipping farmers and independent mechanics with the repair materials they need, Right to Repair would not only decrease downtime—it could provide some much needed relief to the dealerships who don’t have enough staff to keep up with repair demand.

5. Tractor Right to Repair isn’t going away

It’s common sense: Farmers should be able to fix their own equipment. They should be able to hire the mechanic of their choice to do their maintenance work. In the wake of Colorado passing the country’s first tractor Right to Repair bill, the push for farmers’ fixing freedom continues to charge forward.


Kevin O'Reilly

Former Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, PIRG