John Deere gives in, says farmers can fix their tractors themselves

Enlarge / Modern farm machinery is jam-packed with software, and repairs have become a real nuisance.

John Deere

Farmers now have the right to repair their John Deere tractors themselves or through independent third parties, ending a protracted battle with the farm machinery manufacturer. John Deere and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) signed an agreement on Saturday Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which outlines the company’s responsibilities for providing diagnostic tools and software outside of the company’s officially authorized repair centers.

Consumers’ rights to repair their own property, be it automobiles, electronics, or farm equipment, has increased in recent years, and some states have taken steps to enshrine their residents’ right. Farmers have been at odds with John Deere since 2016, when the company changed its end-user license to only allow repairs to embedded software to be performed by authorized technicians. Like cars, modern tractors are packed with complicated electronics, and the restrictions imposed on farmers have not gone down well.

In July 2021, US President Joe Biden meddled with an executive order that specifically mentioned this issue. Among other actions The order prompted the Federal Trade Commission to prevent “unfair anti-competitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment”.

President Biden raised the issue again six months laterand said, “When you own a product, from a smartphone to a tractor, you don’t have the freedom to choose how or where to repair that item you bought.”

Now, John Deere and the AFBF have acted before any federal legislation.

“AFBF is pleased to announce this agreement with John Deere,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It solves a long-standing problem for farmers and ranchers when it comes to accessing tools, information and resources, while protecting John Deere intellectual property rights and ensuring equipment security. A device is a big investment. Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired or repair it themselves to control costs. The MoU commits John Deere to ensuring farmers and independent repairers have access to many of the tools and software needed for the Growing food, fuel and fiber in America is what families rely on.”

“This agreement reinforces Deere’s longstanding commitment to ensuring our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to perform many repairs on their machines. We look forward to working with the American Farm Bureau and our customers over the coming months and years to ensure farmers continue to have the tools and resources to diagnose, maintain and repair their equipment,” said David Gilmore, SVP of Ag and Turf Sales and Marketing at John Deere.

The Memorandum of Understanding between John Deere and the AFBF sets out John Deere’s obligations, including providing access to its Diagnostic tools, manuals, product service demos, training courses and seminars for farmers, including its employees or independent technicians, on “fair and reasonable terms”. It also assures John Deere that its intellectual property is protected from infringement and that safety controls, including emissions equipment, cannot be compromised or overridden.

The agreement also provides a mechanism for handling disagreements between farmers and John Deere, and the AFBF will meet with the company twice a year to ensure things are running smoothly.

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