US President Joe Biden will soon sign an executive order that will give farmers the right to repair their own tractors, said Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary in a press briefing on Tuesday. This is a shot in the arm for the activists who have been seeking legal protection for individuals engaging in repairs at local stores instead of having to send them back to manufacturers every time.
Manufacturers in the technology and auto industry have long opposed efforts to legalize repairs citing concerns of intellectual property theft. Companies often introduce rules and terms of service that prevent the user from making any changes to the hardware or software. The prohibitive cost of repairs with the manufacturer and delays in repair due to the lack of local support usually mean that consumers simply replace their electronic devices, which then also leads to a boom in electronic waste.
Due to the heavy reliance on technology, this trend has continued in the automotive space as well. But more surprisingly, it has also affected the agriculture industry. Farmers, who were used to repairing their tools on the field all by themselves are now at the mercy of software and apps to even get their tractors started. Companies like John Deere require farmers to visit authorized service centers to diagnose and rectify even the smallest of issues. This has turned many farmers into hackers, often relying on pirated software to find issues and sourcing fixes from the dark web. Others have simply reverted to older and easily repairable models.
Biden's executive order would be the first time a US President would be weighing in on the right to repair. The order will instruct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to formulate rules to increase competition in the agriculture industry, providing much-needed relief to farmers. While details are awaited, during the briefing, Psaki said that the order will “give farmers the right to repair their own equipment how they like.” The order is expected to have ripple effects in the tech industry with FTC applying the rules to phone manufacturers as well, Bloomberg reported.
This order is also likely to pave way for a federal Right to Repair legislation that has been in the wings for many years now. As of March this year, 25 states have considered legislation to support repairs of agriculture, medical, automotive, and other equipment.
“Lawmakers everywhere are seeing that Right to Repair is common sense: You buy a product, you own it, and you should be able to fix it," said Kerry Maeve Sheehan, policy lead at iFixit, the world’s biggest online repair community.