Another tractor repair MOU changes nothing

Tractor manufacturers are trying to 'pinky swear' their way out of Right to Repair. But binding legislation is needed to give farmers the repair relief they deserve.

Right to Repair advocate Kevin O'Reilly and a mechanic look at Deere's software repair tools on a laptop connected to a green tractor
Staff | TPIN
Dealer-exclusive software tools lock farmers and independent mechanics out of necessary repair functions.

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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

With a key legislative vote looming in Colorado, the AFBF (American Farm Bureau Federation) announced a new  (Memorandum of Understanding) on Right to Repair, this time with CNH Industrial

This ‘pinky swear’ agreement is virtually the same as the tractor repair MOU that AFBF signed with John Deere in January. It probably won’t change anything for the farmers dealing with repair restrictions that put their crop and livelihood at risk. Binding legislation is necessary to guarantee that every farmer with every brand of equipment can fix every problem with their tractors.

We could have a dozen pinky swears from a dozen tractor manufacturers, but we still wouldn’t have comprehensive repair materials. I’m running out of pinkies and I still can’t fix my damn tractor. Walter Schweitzer
Montana Farmers Union president and third-generation farmer

Here are three reasons to be skeptical of tractor repair MOUs:

1. Manufacturer repair promises haven’t been effective in the past

When it comes to their Right to Repair track record, tractor manufacturers have some explaining to do. Our 2021 investigation with VICE demonstrated how manufacturers and their dealers failed to meet the deadline they set for themselves to provide farmers with access to limited diagnostic tools.

John Deere’s recent MOU, which went into effect when it was signed on January 8 of this year, has failed to change farmers’ repair plight. Repair.org Board Member Willie Cade and I discovered that the repair software promised to the general public, known as Customer Service ADVISOR, lacked key diagnostic, troubleshooting, and repair-authorizing capabilities. Deere owners still lack fixing freedom.

2. Right to Repair leaders have been excluded from tractor repair MOU negotiations

These MOUs are unilateral agreements between AFBF and various tractor manufacturers. But the groups leading the push for farm equipment Right to Repair at the state and federal level—such as PIRG, National Farmers Union and its state organizations, Repair.org, iFixit, select state Farm Bureaus, Farm Action and state commodity groups ranging from the Corn and Wheat Growers Associations to the Cattlemen’s Association—have not had a seat at the bargaining table. 

Despite our vocal skepticism and criticism of the Deere MOU, our groups were excluded from the negotiations of the new CNH Industrial agreement. That should be a red flag.

3. Tractor repair MOUs lack enforcement mechanisms

Our key criticism of the Deere MOU was that it did not provide farmers with reasonable paths to recourse should the manufacturer deny them repair materials. And the manufacturer could walk away from the agreement with a mere 30 days’ notice.

Both of these are true for the CNH Industrial MOU as well. As a result, farmers are at real risk of being left out in the cold without what they need to fix equipment they spend up to $800,000 for. That’s not an acceptable outcome.

Farmers need Right to Repair legislation, not industry pinky swears

To truly support U.S. farmers and give them the repair relief they deserve, legislators must pass Right to Repair laws. 

As Walter Schweitzer, a third-generation farmer and president of the Montana Farmers Union, told me, “We could have a dozen pinky swears from a dozen tractor manufacturers, but we still wouldn’t have comprehensive repair materials. I’m running out of pinkies and I still can’t fix my damn tractor.”

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Kevin O'Reilly

Former Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, PIRG

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