Deere Moves to Repair ‘Right to Repair’ Crisis

Thom Weidlich 01.12.23


This week, farm-equipment maker John Deere agreed to a major change in how it conducts its business. It will allow farmers and ranchers to repair their own Deere gear. The issue has been a slow-burning crisis for the company, and it’s good to show action. Which is not to say that action hasn’t been met with some skepticism.

Deere, based in Moline, Illinois, and the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group for large farms, on Sunday announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding that grants farmers, ranchers and independent repair shops access to the needed software and manuals.

Currently, for the most part, only licensed Deere technicians can work on the company’s tractors and other agricultural equipment. Farmers grumble about the cost and delays in having to wait for an authorized mechanic or to travel to far-away authorized dealerships. It’s been a crisis for Deere because the farmers have blamed the company for interfering with their ability to raise crops.

Farm Equipment

“The deal comes after years of pressure from farmers and right-to-repair advocates urging John Deere to make it easier to identify and repair problems with its popular yellow and green tractors and farm equipment,” NPR noted.

Deere, naturally, tried to spin the move in the most positive light, noting that it does allow some access to diagnostic tools.

“This agreement reaffirms the longstanding commitment Deere has made to ensure our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to make many repairs to their machines,” Deere Senior Vice President David Gilmore said in the statement. Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said the pact would also protect Deere’s intellectual-property rights.

Antitrust Litigation

Deere faces lawsuits over the repair issue, including a proposed class action in federal court in Illinois, for allegedly restricting competition. The litigation is part of a wider “right to repair” trend. Consumers, including businesses, are fed up with what they see as anticompetitive behavior that costs them money and slows them down. Last year, Apple started rolling out its “self-repair program.” In 2021, the Biden administration called on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to develop rules promoting the right to repair.

As for the Deere announcement, there is skepticism, especially in the tech press. The coverage quotes farmers and others who question whether the company will actually carry through — they note it made a similar promise in 2018. Observers also say Deere is merely trying to snuff out the litigation and stave off legislation. As part of the Deere pact, the Farm Bureau won’t pursue right-to-repair legislation and, if any is passed, the agreement is void.

If Deere is being genuine here, it will have to communicate that it’s committed to the change.

Photo Credit: John Deere

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