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Farmers Deserve the Right to Repair Their Tractors

By Hannah Packman

Thanks in large part to the introduction of machinery like tractors and combines, farms today are far more efficient and productive than they were a handful of generations ago. Though these time- and labor-saving technologies can run tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, farmers often aren’t able to fix their machinery themselves – which has significant implications for their finances, privacy, and security.

A few decades ago, any given farmer often had the skills and tools needed to quickly make repairs if their machinery broke down. These days, however, it’s not so straightforward. Most modern farm equipment is technologically advanced, containing computers and sensors that collect and transmit data. As a result, specific software tools are typically necessary to address mechanical failures and other issues.

However, most companies refuse to make those tools available to farmers, making it exceptionally difficult to fix broken machinery on their own. They can’t even go an independent mechanic, since manufacturers won’t sell them parts or diagnostic tools either. This leaves farmers essentially no choice but to take their broken equipment to a licensed dealership.

This isn’t cheap. A farmer might spend thousands of dollars on a simple adjustment they could have done themselves with the appropriate resources. On the other hand, this arrangement has proven wildly lucrative for manufacturers; for Deere, as an example, parts and repairs are up to six times more profitable than selling the equipment itself.

But money isn’t the only problem – it’s also a matter of time. Oftentimes on a farm, tasks like planting and harvesting have to be done within a window of just a few days when the moisture content, ripeness, or weather conditions are just right. If, god forbid, machinery breaks during that window and a dealership can’t make an appointment immediately, the wait can cut severely into the farmers’ annual yields and income.

There’s also the issue of privacy. Equipment manufacturers collect lots and lots of data about soil, weather, yields, and other factors, which they can then share with or sell to “affiliates and suppliers.” This intentional data sharing in and of itself is worrying for farmers’ privacy, but even worse is the possibility of hackers accessing that information. Just last month, a security expert found vulnerabilities in John Deere’s apps that would have allowed outsiders to download the company’s data on farm equipment and vehicle owners.

In addition to data breaches, there are other potential security risks. Because most modern tractors can be operated and shut off remotely, some farmers and experts worry that hackers could disable thousands of tractors at a time. Such a widespread disruption could affect the entire country’s agricultural production, threatening livelihoods and food security.

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Why SaskSeed is Rejuvenating its Annual Meeting

Video: Why SaskSeed is Rejuvenating its Annual Meeting

The Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association (SaskSeed) is switching things up for 2024.

In a recent interview, SaskSeed President Kurt Printz, the owner of Printz Family Seeds, shared some of the notable accomplishments and changes within his organization over the past 12 months, including switching venues for the SaskSeed annual meeting coming up in January.

The decision to move their meeting from a familiar venue to a downtown location is a refreshing change aimed at offering members more freedom and a change of scenery outside of meeting hours, he says. The shift is also an attempt to attract a younger crowd, tapping into the vibrant dining and social opportunities downtown.

“The goal is to inject some fresh energy into the proceedings while still paying homage to the heritage of our meetings. It’s about blending excitement with respect for our established traditions, ensuring that the change doesn’t compromise the essence of what makes our AGMs special,” he says.

One of his proudest accomplishments as SaskSeed president is getting new executive director Chris Barker up and running within the organization. Printz expressed excitement about the positive direction Barker is taking SaskSeed and the impact this has on SaskSeed’s overall goals.