Here in the U.S., John Deere is, in a word, dominant. According to figures from antitrust nonprofit The American Economic Liberties Project, the corporation controls 53% of the large tractor market in this country and 60% of farm combines. It’s not the only game in town, but it’s a hard one to avoid. That’s precisely why refusal to allow customers to repair its products has been a major concern for farmers.
Over the weekend, Deere and Co. joined the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) in cosigning a memorandum of understanding (MOU) designed to open access to tools and repair information.
“This is an issue that has been a priority for us for several years and has taken a lot of work to get to this point,” AFBF President Vincent Duvall said. “And as you use equipment, we all know at some point in time, there’s going to be problems with it. And we did have problems with having the opportunity to repair our equipment where we wanted to, or even repair it on the farm.”
Deere SVP David Gilmore adds, “This agreement reaffirms the longstanding commitment Deere has made to ensure our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to make many repairs to their machines. We look forward to working alongside the American Farm Bureau and our customers in the months and years ahead to ensure farmers continue to have the tools and resources to diagnose, maintain and repair their equipment.”
Per the MOU:
[Deere] shall ensure that any Farmer, including any staff or independent technician assisting a Farmer at a Farmer’s request, and any Independent Repair Facility that provides assistance to Farmers, has electronic access on Fair and Reasonable terms to Manufacturer’s Tools, Specialty Tools, Software and Documentation.
The deal follows mounting pressure from customers to open repairability, amid complaint that — among other things — systems appear to break down at a faster rate. Deere had previously required farmers to visit authorized dealers for repair. There are still some caveats here. Among them, Deere will not “divulge trade secrets, proprietary or confidential information” or “allow owners or Independent Repair Facilities to override safety features or emissions controls or to adjust Agricultural Equipment power levels.”
The news is part of a mounting push to allow consumers to repair their own property. Apple, Samsung and Google have all launched their own at-home phone repair programs, as states like New York and Massachusetts have passed their own right to repair laws. A federal version is believed to be in the offing, as well.
However, it seems likely that repairs will become more difficult for consumers, as Deere leans into robotics for future systems.