State agricultural Right to Repair bills build momentum

Thirteen state agricultural Right to Repair bills states forge ahead in push to give farmers repair relief

Map of the thirteen state agricultural Right to Repair bills. Colorado and West Virginia bills have passed through one chamber, Minnesota's bill has passed through its assigned committees.
Staff | TPIN

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In the two months since tractor-maker John Deere announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the campaign to give farmers fixing freedom is building more momentum than ever before. There are now thirteen state agricultural Right to Repair bills—and they are making progress.

First, the Colorado House of Representatives passed an agriculture-focused Right to Repair bill introduced by Reps. Brianna Titone (D-Arvada) & Ron Weinberg (R-Fort Collins) by a 48-12 bipartisan vote. Colorado is building on its record as a leader in the push for Right to Repair; the state enacted a powered wheelchair Right to Repair law on January 1, 2023, that is already helping Coloradans fix their own wheelchairs.

Now, the West Virginia Senate has passed a similar bill. On March 1, Sen. Bill Hamilton’s (R-Buckhannon) Equipment Right to Repair Act also passed with a bipartisan vote, by a 23-10 margin.

Eleven other states are considering Right to Repair bills that include farm equipment in their scope. And some of that legislation is making progress: The state House version of Minnesota’s Right to Repair bill passed its two assigned committees and is now due for a floor vote.

Map of the thirteen state agricultural Right to Repair bills. Colorado and West Virginia bills have passed through one chamber, Minnesota's bill has passed through its assigned committees.
Staff | TPIN

In addition to progress on state agricultural Right to Repair bills, the movement got a boost at the federal level when the Department of Justice (DOJ) firmly rebuked Deere’s request to drop 16 class-action lawsuits farmers have filed against the company. Without getting too far into the legal weeds, the DOJ’s Statement of Interest asserts that the company’s analysis consists of “an unduly narrow lens,” that Deere’s reliance on certain circuit court precedent is “misplaced,” that the company “ignores” the proper precedent and that the cases that it does cite are “inapposite and unpersuasive.” Ultimately, the DOJ states: “Deere is wrong.”

What’s wrong with Deere’s repair MOU?

Clearly, Deere’s MOU has neither satisfied the Right to Repair movement nor convinced decision-makers that the problem is solved.

Why hasn’t it?

When I first heard that John Deere had signed an agreement that promised to give farmers their Right to Repair, I was more than skeptical. Deere, after all, has been one of the most vocal opponents to Right to Repair legislation across any industry, and manufacturers and dealers had come up short on previous repair agreements. 

On top of that, the groups that have been leading the push for farmers’ repair rights—National Farmers Union and its state organizations,, iFixit, the PIRGs and even the state farm bureaus that have supported the effort (AFBF has not supported Right to Repair legislation)—did not have a seat at the bargaining table.

Regardless of how I felt, as an advocate, it’s important not to let your initial, emotional reaction get the best of you. Part of PIRG’s core value of civility includes ​​always remembering we might be wrong and the other person right. So, I got to work finding the facts.

The first step was to dig through the text of the MOU. What did it actually say? Was it a complete nothingburger, or were there signs of promise?

My initial analysis fell somewhere in the middle. The only software tool that Deere promises to provide is Customer Service ADVISOR, which does not provide farmers with comprehensive repair information and functionality. There is no guarantee that the promised tools will be affordable. No enforcement mechanism for farmers to pursue if they feel they’ve been wronged. Nothing to prevent Deere from walking away from the agreement with just 30 days’ notice.

On the bright side, the MOU promises farmers access to technical functionalities—such as resetting the immobilizer, installing embedded software and resetting security locks in the course of repair or maintenance—that tractor manufacturers never had addressed before. (Nonetheless, some dealerships are still incorrectly insisting that such measures are not necessary for repair.) 

Understanding the language of the agreement is important. Understanding its impact on farmers’ ability to fix their own equipment is even more so.

Watered-down tools expose flaws in manufacturer promises

If you’ve been following the agricultural Right to Repair debate, you’ve heard countless stories similar to that of Colorado-based farmer Danny Wood, who recently had to pay a dealer technician $950 to simply enter a five-digit code

The way that Deere’s repair agreement could help a farmer like Danny would be by giving him access to the diagnostics necessary to discover the right code, the code itself and, if a new part was necessary, the ability to electronically pair that part to the tractor by installing embedded software.

Despite the fact that the MOU went into effect when Deere signed it on Jan. 8, the Customer Service ADVISOR tool that the company promised still lacks many of those functionalities. Board Member Willie Cade and I were able to plug into a tractor and do a side-by-side comparison of the publicly available and dealer versions of the software, thanks to a source with access to both. In the process, we learned that Customer Service ADVISOR is essentially a redacted version of what dealers use. 

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

This was clear when we looked at information on a problem that the tractor had previously experienced with its engine control unit. With the dealer-level Service ADVISOR tool, you could see a description of the problem (the diesel emissions fluid was running low), the “error code” assigned to this particular problem and, by clicking the link on the error code, troubleshooting information on how to solve the problem. 

Customer Service ADVISOR, however, lacked key information. The error code was visible, but it lacked the description of the problem and the link to troubleshooting information. This was just one example of the substantial differences between the two tools, which we will be discussing more in the coming months.

How does Deere expect farmers to fix their own tractors if they can’t fully see what the problem is nor the steps required to fix it? After that experience, I understood why farmers are not content with the MOU—it simply isn’t getting the job done.

Farmers want a real Right to Repair

Our Right to Repair campaign is just one piece of PIRG’s mission to advance the public interest by implementing lasting social change. What we’ve learned over decades of doing this is that you have to first win the people—particularly those with the most to lose or gain—before you can win sustainable progress.

By failing to address the core problems of repair restrictions and excluding the core groups advancing the Right to Repair, John Deere’s MOU failed to win the people—namely, the farmers who use their equipment.  

The backlash is proof the people know what they want: a real Right to Repair. With the president of the Colorado Senate supporting the bill that is now before his chamber, and Gov. Jared Polis reportedly excited to get the bill on his desk to sign into law, sustainable progress might be just around the bend.


Kevin O'Reilly

Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, PIRG

Kevin leads U.S. PIRG's work on agricultural and medical Right to Repair. His research has demonstrated how tractor makers limit farmer repair choice, and has worked with more than 100 farmers from all over the country to advance legislation. His work has been published and covered by the Wall Street Journal, NPR, Reuters and more.

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