Farmers Across America Are Suing for the Right to Repair Their John Deere Tractors

Farmers have long been fighting the good fight against bureaucracy. The recent “Right to Repair” movement is now in action to preserve farmers’ rights when it comes to repairing their own farming equipment and tractor machinery. In fact, farmers across America are suing John Deere for the right to repair their own tractors. 

a John Deere logo on a smart phone against a green backdrop that also sports the John Deere logo
John Deere logo | Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

According to Food Tank, the Right to Repair (R2R) movement is meant to help farmers maintain their right to repair their own farming equipment and tractors. Currently, some farmers face legal repercussions when they move to fix their machinery. The R2R movement is a big deal for farmers. They will likely continue suing large companies like John Deere until the movement resolves the situation. 

The Right to Repair (R2R) movement is making an attempt to get behind the farmer’s cause 

It’s best not to underestimate the American farmer––or any farmer for that matter. The work is a massive commitment on many levels. For this and other obvious reasons, it makes sense why farmers want to keep the right to repair their own tractors

Places like the Repair Association serve as a platform through which the R2R movement can lobby for “repair-friendly legislation, standards, and regulations.” 

“The Association advocates for guaranteeing property rights, obtaining equal access to information, non-discriminatory pricing of parts and tools, and unlocking software.”

An interview with a member of the R2R movement 

According to Food Tank, members of the R2R movement want to keep the same rights that their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents had to work on their own tractors and farming equipment. In an interview with Kevin Kenney, an R2R advocate, he says “We’re trying to maintain our consumer rights which means we’d still like to be able to repair and modify our tractors just like our dad, grandfather, and great grandfather did years ago.” 

Corporations like John Deere are at the forefront when it comes to the entities the movement goes after. Food Tank reports that large companies like John Deere control the machinery, causing farmers to hire in outside contracts which can cost upwards of $150.00 an hour. The companies get away with this practice by getting farmers to sign complicated contracts called Extended Use License Agreements (EULA). This limits their true ownership and encroaches on their rights to repair, altar, improve, or generally modify the machinery in any way.  

In the interview, Kenney also says “with major equipment manufacturers…they make us sign these [EULA]’s; and it’s just like your cell phone where you have the right to use your cell phone but you don’t really own it.” 

Aging farm equipment is of particular concern. Also called legacy equipment, older tractors don’t have the latest software and technology. When a manufacturer like John Deere upgrades their technology, it stops supporting the previous versions. This creates problems for farmers with older tractors because it gets really difficult to repair their older equipment. 

“The problem that we are having is if [manufacturers] decide to quit supporting [equipment] with software, we can’t get it fixed,” reports Kenney.

Why are farmers suing John Deere?

A farmer spreads liquid manure on a field with his team in a giant John Deere tractor farming machine
John Deere equipment | Philipp Schulze/picture alliance via Getty Images

The practice of upgrading software and then forbidding owners from repairing their tractors means farmers have to buy new equipment or new software. These costs can reach up to $600,000. 

In 2018, the Equipment Dealers Association (EDA) entered into a signed agreement with John Deere making private repairs easier for farmers. By making things like software guides, diagnostic equipment, repair tools available to farmers. This was supposed to begin on January 1st of this year. 

However, Extreme Tech reports that John Deere “isn’t keeping up its end of the bargain.” The “increasingly onerous software lockouts” that John Deere “baked into its tractors” aren’t yet in the past. The deal with the EDA made many states considering adding Right to Repair legislation ease off on the movement. But now, that’s looking like a mistake. 

John Deere owners are now dealing with problems with their John Deere tractors. Replacements and small repairs are more and more difficult. Owners have to keep heading into John Deere dealerships for what Extreme Tech calls “trivial repairs.” 

Certain details like fair pricing and other moving parts of the deal haven’t been attended to. In fact, John Deere doesn’t seem to be implementing any of the necessary changes. These changes must take place in order to make this deal actually better for farmers. 

Another John Deere lawsuit could be on the horizon  

Signage on a Deere & Co. farm implement at a John Deere dealership
Signage on a Deere & Co. farm implement | Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

John Deere continues to pose this issue as a problem of IP protection and software security. And it’s pretty clear that farmers aren’t trying to steal John Deere’s intellectual property. They simply want to clear codes and repair their tractors. 

However, farmers and tractor owners aren’t exactly seeing any changes yet due to the John Deere corporation’s reluctance to actually move forward with any of the specifics it agreed upon. So there is likely another John Deere lawsuit on the horizon. In addition, there could be another big push for R2R legislation in several states across the country.

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