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John Deere relents, says farmers can fix their own tractors after all

After a lengthy argument, a right to repair comes to agricultural machinery.

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Enlarge / Modern farm equipment is packed full of software, and repairs have become a real pain. (credit: John Deere)

Farmers now have the right to repair their John Deere tractors themselves or through independent third parties, ending a lengthy battle with the agricultural machinery company. On Saturday, John Deere and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining the company’s responsibilities to provide diagnostic tools and software outside of the company’s official authorized repair centers.

The right for consumers to repair their own property, be that cars, electronics, or farm equipment, has been growing over the past few years, with some states taking action to enshrine the right for their residents. Farmers have been at odds with John Deere since 2016, when the company changed its end-user license to require that any repairs involving embedded software be carried out only by authorized technicians. Like cars, modern tractors are now packed full of complicated electronics, and the restrictions imposed upon farmers did not go down well.

In July 2021, US President Joe Biden weighed in with an executive order that specifically mentioned this problem. Among other actions, the order called on the Federal Trade Commission to prevent “unfair anticompetitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.”

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