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US farmers file complaint against Deere & Co about right to fix own vehicles

US farmers file complaint against Deere & Co about right to fix own vehicles

A complaint from various US groups representing over 200,000 farmers said Deere & Co. is unfairly preventing farmers from repairing their own tractors and combines.

By Andrew Joseph,

While the Beastie Boys may have fought for the right to party, 200,000 US farmers are fighting Deere & Co. for the right to fix their own tractors.

A complaint was filed with the US Federal Trade Commission on March 3, 2022, arguing that Deere & Co. is preventing them from repairing their own tractors and combines.

The complainant group of 200,000 farmers et al, consists of: the (US) National Farmers Union, Iowa Farmers Union, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin farmers unions, Farm Action, Illinois Public Interest Research Group, Digital Right to Repair Coalition, and iFIXIT.

The group is asking for an investigation into Deere & Co.’s “abusive restrictions on tractor and other farm equipment repair.”

The issue revolves around proprietary-owned Deere & Co. materials such as software. When a John Deere tractor suffers from an issue, the machine shuts itself down until the Deere & Co. software reactivates it.

The complaint group states that the manufacturer has retained strict control over the proprietary software needed to diagnose and repair equipment and will only allow full access to its authorized technicians.

Unfortunately, the complainants say the reactivity can take valuable days for the repair to be enacted, which is both time and money lost for the growers who can ill afford mechanical issues in-season.

The complainant groups explained via a statement: “Deere’s tight control of the repair market costs farmers millions of dollars in overcharges and lost crops every year. These practices harm farmers, drive independent repair shops out of business, and increase costs for consumers."

In 2021, US President Joe Biden called for an investigation into so-called consolidation within the ag industry, agreeing with lobbyists who state that the country’s farmers are paying too much money for seeds, fertilizers, and equipment—all of which are ultimately passed down to the consumer forced to pay higher prices for foods.

Deere & Co. has been called a dominant force within the US ag equipment market, controlling about 50 percent of the tractor and combine sector in North America.

The complainant group said: “For many farmers and ranchers, they effectively have no choice but to purchase their equipment from Deere.

"Not satisfied with dominating just the market for equipment, Deere has sought to leverage its power in that market to monopolize the market for repairs of that equipment, to the detriment of farmers, ranchers, and independent repair providers.”

While Deere & Co. has said it already provides the repair tools, replacement parts, manuals and other information that farmers need to repair equipment, it "does not support the right to modify embedded software due to risks associated with the safe operation of the equipment, emissions compliance and engine performance."

Deere & Co reported in November of 2021 a record annual earnings of just under US$6-billion (~CDN $7.6-billion).

The (US) National Farmers Union, however, said that Deere & Co. makes more money from repairs than it does from its sales, calling the repair market “the backbone of its financial success.”

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