John Deere will allow US farmers to repair their own equipment

"Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired, or to repair it themselves, to help control costs."
Deena Theresa
A picture from the John Deere Vintage Classic Tractor Show.
A picture from the John Deere Vintage Classic Tractor Show.

Wirestock/iStock 

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and tractor maker John Deere signed a memorandum of understanding today that ensures farmers' and ranchers' right to repair their farm equipment.

Signed at the 2023 AFBF Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the MOU is the result of several years of discussions.

"It addresses a long-running issue for farmers and ranchers when it comes to accessing tools, information, and resources while protecting John Deere's intellectual property rights and ensuring equipment safety," AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement.

What is the right-to-repair movement?

If you own something, it is natural to expect to have the information and the tools to repair it yourself or take it to a technician. While this is possible with older appliances, modern technology has made the repair concept almost impossible. According to The New York Times, most American shoppers are legally allowed to repair whatever they buy. Still, in practical terms, people are denied the information and parts to do so. This is where the right-to-repair movement comes in.

According to The Repair Association, a right-to-repair advocacy group, everyone should have access to manuals, software updates, and the parts and tools to service devices. Devices should be designed in such a manner to ensure that repair is possible, and the government should legalize unlocking a device so that an owner can install custom software.

In 2021, the New York State Senate voted to pass the Digital Fair Repair Act, an electronic right-to-repair legislation, which made the senate the first legislative body in the U.S. to approve such a law. 

And in 2022, two long-awaited laws introduced into the House of Representatives let citizens fix their pricey tech items instead of having to pay the manufacturer (or buy a new one). While one of the bills emphasizes cars, the other one focuses on copyright restrictions for electronics like iPhones.

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Farmers now have access to diagnostic and repair codes, along with manuals

Previously, farmers were only allowed to use the respective company's parts and service divisions for repairs. Until recently, only authorized dealers had the means and tools to access complex systems of John Deere's tractors and other machinery.

For several equipment manufacturers, repairing machinery has largely helped cement their parts and service businesses. Consumers have filed several lawsuits against Deere over the issue.

Now, under the agreement, equipment owners and independent technicians will not be allowed to "divulge trade secrets" or "override safety features or emissions controls or to adjust Agricultural Equipment power levels."

"A piece of equipment is a major investment. Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired, or to repair it themselves, to help control costs. The MOU commits John Deere to ensure farmers and independent repair facilities have access to many of the tools and software needed to grow the food, fuel, and fiber America's families rely on," said Duvall.

A long time coming

The MOU formalizes farmers' access to diagnostic and repair codes, as well as manuals (operator, parts, service) and product guides. As per the release, it will also ensure that farmers can purchase diagnostic tools directly from John Deere and receive assistance from the manufacturer when ordering parts and products.

"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. We look forward to working alongside the American Farm Bureau and our customers in the months and years ahead to ensure farmers continue to have the tools and resources to diagnose, maintain and repair their equipment," said David Gilmore, John Deere senior vice president, Ag & Turf Sales & Marketing.