As technology becomes more complex and specialized, a growing number of companies have begun restricting the types of repairs that unauthorized individuals can perform. The trend has sparked a so-called right-to-repair movement that has drawn backlash from Apple, Tesla, Amazon, and a host of other tech titans.
The issue has impacted farmers across the United States especially hard as John Deere advanced a plan that would only allow authorized dealers to repair software and other components of its tractors.
Individuals impacted by such a restriction fought back with a lawsuit and scored a legal victory this week.
According to a court document released on Sunday, John Deere reached an agreement with the American Farm Bureau Federation to provide farmers with training and other tools necessary to repair their own equipment.
US farmers won the right to repair in a lawsuit with John Deere.
This is a HUGE win for everyone!
And $DE is rallying!
Maybe respecting users is a good business move? pic.twitter.com/h5Is66QkkH
— r/wallstreetbets (@Official_WSB) January 9, 2023
Some skeptics of the agreement, however, are not certain that farmers will actually receive what they are now expecting. According to Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer: “There’s no commitment from anyone to enforce it.”
As Wisconsin farmer Jim Leverich explained, the costs associated with taking a tractor in for service at a John Deere facility is substantially higher than achieving a similar result elsewhere.
“Every time we take a truck or tractor in, it’s $175 to $200 an hour to get something serviced,” he said. “Many of us could do that ourselves, or we could hire a technician on our own farms to do it, but we can’t get the software.”
Others in the industry have expressed similar concerns, including Tom Schwartz of Nebraska, who described a common mentality among farmers that involves using equipment and tools for as long as possible.
“There’s a tractor sitting in the shop here that was built in 1943,” he said. “We don’t dispose of things on the farm. We keep them running forever. And it’s important to us as farmers, in order to keep our costs down. When we buy something, we need to run it a long time to make it pay out.”
As such equipment becomes more advanced, however, Schwartz said that companies like John Deere “feel that all the programming and the technology that’s in the tractor, they can continue to own after they sell me the tractor.”