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Opinion: Executive branch’s shift-in-power includes new legislative agenda

  

The executive branch’s shift-in-power includes a new legislative agenda, and lawmakers gearing up for the new year face an unprecedented political and economic climate. It’s imperative that our elected officials continue to pursue policies that are in our agriculture industry’s best interest. 

America’s farmers and ranchers have worked through an economically challenging climate. The unpredictable weather over the past few years and coronavirus pandemic’s strain on the supply chain. The agricultural industry is resilient, but we need to make sure unchecked and bad legislation doesn’t add additional harm to our most important sector at this vulnerable time. 

An issue called “right to repair” would cause serious negative consequences for our nation’s agriculture industry if it’s signed into law. Special interest groups are pushing this movement, trying to gain access to a company’s proprietary information, claiming that without it, end users such as farmers can’t fix their own equipment. The truth is, farmers can fix their equipment. These activists want the ability to illegally tamper with the equipment. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that is supportive and actively pursuing “right to repair” legislation, publicly acknowledges its goal is to gain access to and modify — not repair — back-end code that is developed and lawfully copyrighted by a company. 

The organization states, in an article asking the public to share stories about roadblocks encountered when dealing with copyrighted software, that it’s looking to “circumvent certain digital access controls” and admits the law it is seeking to change “prevent[s] copyright infringement.”

Businesses spend time and money to create and develop new technologies that will better serve their customers. “Right to repair” laws hinder innovation and give activists, generally from the tech sector, the ability to use a company’s back-end code for unlawful purposes. 

Overly broad “right to repair” laws also negatively affect the consumer and have significant safety implications. Take the agricultural sector, for example, where these types of laws would impact the safe functionality of tractors and combines, potentially putting farmers and the public at risk.

Farming equipment has rapidly changed over the years thanks, in large part, to new technologies and innovation. Tractors now use precision agriculture technology that allows farmers to control important variables such as fuel, pesticides, fertilizers, and seeds to better allocate their precious resources. But “right to repair” laws would put an end to new technologies that improve farming. 

The technology found in modern farm equipment has made farmers more productive than ever. Technology has also made field diagnosis and repair easier, which is why manufacturers and dealers are committed to providing diagnostic tools, information, and training to farmers. Our lawmakers need to know that equipment owners already have the right to repair their equipment and “right to repair” laws are being dishonestly promoted by claiming otherwise.

The overt infringement of trying to violate copyright laws is dangerous and unfair to companies and the consumer. “Right to repair” laws can affect many industries, but the most important is effect on the agricultural industry and the law’s negative impact on farming equipment and its owners. Policymakers need to understand the negative implications these types of laws will have on an industry that’s been harmed over the past year because of unforeseen circumstances and make sure to steer clear.