The COVID-19 crisis is shedding enormous light onto the agricultural community with headlines appearing daily about the stress and economic hardship farmers and producers are facing. The coronavirus has created major disruptions in the food supply chain, and even as consumers are relying more than ever on grocery stores and food pantries, many farmers have seen their crops rot in the field. At this time of economic crisis and uncertainty, we need to ensure our nation’s farmers are receiving the support they need.
Just like the food supply chain that feeds America, there is a larger agricultural supply chain that works closely with farmers to help them operate efficiently and help provide food for our country. The relationship between equipment dealers, manufacturers, and farmers is close-knit. Equipment suppliers have an incentive for farmers to be prosperous because when farms succeed, the manufacturers, dealers, and the communities they serve also succeed.
It would be unwise, especially at a time like this, for any state legislature to disrupt the agriculture supply chain by implementing new, unnecessary regulations on the agricultural community. One issue that’s gaining momentum in our state is the so-called “right to repair.” This type of legislation, if passed into law, would create new uncertainty and burdens that would harm our state’s hardworking farmers and the agricultural supply chain.
“Right to repair” legislation is misleading given that farmers already have the legal right to repair and maintain their equipment as they see fit. In reality, this legislation is being pushed by well-funded special interest groups whose main goal is to obtain unfettered access to the equipment’s technology.
Over the past century, agriculture equipment has developed to become more high-tech, efficient, and safer. Take for example the modern-day tractor, which contains more lines of code than the first space shuttle and can operate autonomously. The high-tech tools onboard a tractor allow farmers to more accurately plant, harvest, and monitor the weather, which optimizes their resources and produces a higher crop yield.
Modern tractors also include better safety and emission features, in accordance with the law, to keep farmers and the public safe. But “right to repair” legislation would allow third-party bad actors to steal, modify, or disable safety features that could put farmers at risk.
This type of legislation is also misleading because, despite the technological advancements, farmers can still perform the vast majority of repairs on their equipment. In the few cases where a farmer requires assistance for a repair, equipment suppliers provide a highly-trained technician who has an incentive to minimize downtime and maximize productivity. They also invest in the development of new cutting-edge technologies to achieve better yields from the same amount of ground farmed. “Right to repair” laws would remove this incentive from dealers and manufacturers which would stifle innovation.
Our farmers are on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak by helping to keep Americans fed and healthy. It’s clear the current system is working by the advancements in agricultural technology that helps farmers quickly and more efficiently produce crops. But “right to repair” laws would interfere with this by adding unnecessary government regulation. Let’s hope our state lawmakers realize this type of legislation would be detrimental to our state’s farmers and prevent it from becoming law.
Rep. Warren D. Love, a Republican, represents Hickory, St. Clair, and parts of Benton and Cedar counties (HD 125).