As the Executive Director of The Repair Association, I was stunned to see the fight for our collective right to repair characterized as using farmers as “pawns” in order to steal intellectual property. That’s just ridiculous. We started this fight without farmers in 2014 and it was farmers that asked us for help and not the other way around. We just want to be able to fix our stuff.
For their part, farmers have been very vocal within their crop and trade association in demanding their Right to Repair. Both the National Farmers Union and American Farm Bureau Federation have voted for support of Right to Repair legislation. Several crop groups have done the same. These associations represent farmers to legislators on their own. We’re happy to be on the same side.
As to “IP” — anyone that wants to steal IP can already do so with or without repair. Getting a repair manual or buying a part doesn’t make that theft easier or less illegal. These same arguments were made in opposition to Automotive Right to Repair and once passed in 2012, has allowed independent auto mechanics to service your vehicles and no one has suggested that the auto industry has been pilfered of its Copyrights, Patents, or Trade Secrets.
Opposition lobbyists from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the Equipment Dealers Association, are the ones promoting the idea of IP theft when no such thing is even possible at the state level. Anyone reading the legislation will see how IP is clearly and specifically protected. These same groups are trying to negotiate side agreements with state Farm Bureaus offering the pretense of being repair-friendly without agreeing to anything of import.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that opposition is ferocious and unprincipled. There are billions at stake. Farmers that hold onto their older and more repairable models aren’t buying new. New product sales are down so dealers are making most of their money on monopolized repair services. All the financial incentives are for the manufacturer to charge as much money as possible in order to get frustrated farmers back into the showroom. The key to a new sale is the preposterous cost of repair.
These distortions are now rampant in all modern products. So long as there is an internal chip – the manufacturer holds all the cards in how, if, and where products can be repaired. This is opposite the very nature of ownership, which is why we can fight just as enthusiastically for your right to repair your cell phone, TV, and refrigerator as your tractor.
We welcome the opportunity to discuss and debate all points at any time.
Gay Gordon-Byrne is the executive director of The Repair Association.