Deere in the Headlights as 21 states consider Right to Repair

Right to Repair continues at a rapid pace in 2021, as we now have 33 active bills in 21 state legislatures, while tractor repair takes center stage.

Right to Repair continues at a rapid pace in 2021, as we now have 33 active bills in 21 state legislatures. It really does feel like this is the year for a major breakthrough. 

Here is a quick update about our work over the last month. 


New report “Deere in the Headlights” put the focus on tractors

On Feb. 18, U.S. PIRG Education Fund released “Deere in the Headlights,” a report by our advocate Kevin O’Reilly, which shows how manufacturers restrict access to the software tools needed to repair broken tractors, leaving farmers out in the cold. Additionally, we used the report release to highlight how the agriculture equipment industry promised new software repair tools by January 2021, but has generally failed to make these tools available to the public. 

VICE News ran an excellent piece about the failure of John Deere to adhere to its promises about access to software tools. The report has generated about 20 total media hits so far. 

Meanwhile, efforts to advance the Right to Repair for farm equipment have surged, with three hearings on agricultural Right to Repair bills this week. The Florida Senate version of this effort has already passed through two committees and is before the Senate Rules committee. 


We are up to 21 states in ‘21

Over the last month, seven additional states have introduced RIght to Repair legislation, and there are now 33 bills in 21 states (Note: Several states have separate bills making their way through both state houses). 

The full list is: California (SB 605, targeting medical devices), Connecticut (HB 5255 and HB 5826), Delaware (HB22), Florida (S 374 and H 0511, both targeting ag equipment), Hawaii ( SB 760 targeting medical devices, SB 564, HB 226 and HB415), Illinois (HB 3061), Kansas (HB 2309, targeting ag equipment), Maryland (HB 84 and SB 412), Massachusetts (HD 260 and SD 199),  Missouri (HB975 targeting ag equipment and HB 1118), Minnesota (HF 1156), Montana (HB 175, and HB 390 and SB 273, targeting ag equipment), Nebraska (LB543 targeting ag equipment), New Jersey (A 1482 and A 2906 targeting ag equipment), New Hampshire (HB449 targeting appliances), New York (S04104 and S149 targeting ag equipment), Oklahoma (HB1011), Oregon (HB 2698) South Carolina (H 3500 targeting agricultural equipment plus a nonbinding resolution in favor, H 3577), Vermont (H.58 and S.67, both ag only), and Washington (HB 1212). 

We had some setbacks as well. Our Washington state bill missed a deadline to come out of committee. The appropriate Maryland House committee deemed its bill unfavorable. The Montana House version of a Right to Repair bill targeting ag equipment also was put on ice. Despite these setbacks, we remain optimistic that this is the year we win our first statewide Right to Repair legislation.


Hospital technicians renew urgent call to repair medical devices

At the outset of the pandemic, the status of our country’s medical devices — particularly ventilators — was of utmost concern. And for good reason. When biomeds (hospital repair technicians) can’t fix broken equipment, patient care suffers. Over the last two months, as hospitals saw a peak in case loads, we re-polled medical repair experts about the conditions related to repairs in hospitals. Released on Feb. 10, U.S. PIRG’s new survey of 129 biomeds shows why we must renew our focus on our medical equipment, particularly how we fix it.

More than three out of four of biomeds who responded to our survey have been denied access to parts or service manuals for critical medical equipment over the past three months. A striking eight in 10 report having equipment on-site that they cannot service because of restricted access to service keys, parts or other repair materials. And 97 percent of biomeds agree that removing barriers to manufacturer parts and service manuals is important to their repair work.

Meanwhile, bills focusing on medical device repair have been filed in Hawaii and California, and U.S. PIRG is supporting these critical efforts. 


Winning hearts and minds

Right to Repair continues to enjoy incredible support from the public … when people are familiar with the issue. About 55 percent of Americans are unfamiliar with the issue — but 75 percent are supportive once they learn about it. 

Working with our state coalitions around the country, U.S. PIRG is raising awareness at the local level. Over the last month, for example, we’ve held community workshops and generated coverage in local media. Here are some highlights:

  • The Baltimore Sun editorialized in favor of our Right to Repair bills, and another newspaper in Western Maryland followed suit

  • OSPIRG continues to generate local coverage of our efforts in Oregon as we gear up for a hearing the first week of March. 

  • Our network placed op-eds about tractor repair in newspapers in Missouri, Montana and Arizona

  • Kevin Purdy from iFixit and I did a live NPR radio show in North Carolina for a full hour


Other updates: 

Here, there and everywhere, we just want to fix our stuff.


Nathan Proctor

Senior Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, PIRG

Nathan leads U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign, working to pass legislation that will prevent companies from blocking consumers’ ability to fix their own electronics. Nathan lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.