Right to repair gains in Colorado

13 April 2023

Colorado has taken a major step toward becoming the second state to pass “right to repair” legislation that would allow farmers to do more repair of their own machines.

Equipment repair The Colorado state legislature has passed a law intended to allow farmers and independent repair facilities the right to repair their own machines. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Reuters has reported that the Colorado state senate passed the Consumer Right to Repair Agriculture Equipment Act, a measure that had earlier been approved by the state’s house of representatives, by a 46-14 vote. A spokesperson for Colorado Gov. Jared Polis sad the governor was expected to sign the bill into law within the next 10 days.

Colorado joins New York, which passed a right to repair bill late last year, as the only states to approve such legislation, though at least 11 other states are considering similar rules. On the federal level, the Biden Administration issued an executive order last year directing the Federal Trade Commission to draft federal right to repair rules.

Right to repair has been a controversial issue in the equipment industry for more than a decade, particularly in the agricultural equipment segment. As farm equipment has become more complex and reliant on sophisticated and proprietary software – much of it the result of engine emissions regulations – machine manufacturers have been hesitant to provide the information and tools to enable farmers and independent repair facilities to do more than the most basic work on equipment. That reluctance has no doubt been strengthened by well-known incidents of farmers “re-chipping” their machines, i.e., illegally modifying engine control software and hardware to increase horsepower or improve fuel economy.

On the other side of the issue, farmers have long seen the manufacturer’s position as monopolistic and an attempt to drive virtually all service and repair work toward the equipment manufacturer’s dealer networks. This, the farmers assert, increases their cost and can also leave farmers waiting in line to get their machines repaired, sometimes at critical times such as during harvesting.

Over the years, literally dozens of lawsuits have been filed against equipment manufacturers over right to repair issues.

Early this year, John Deere and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) signed a right to repair memorandum of understanding that allows farmers, independent technicians or independent repair facilities electronic access “on fair and reasonable terms” to Deere’s tools, specialty tools, software and documentation. The MOU stipulates that no safety controls or protocols may be compromised by any work done by a farmer, independent technician or repair shop, nor can emissions control systems be changed. In addition, all of the manufacturer’s intellectual property, including embedded software must be protected.

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