Farmers are pushing back against legislation that prevents them from fixing their own equipment. If successful, it will be a huge victory for consumers.
A major national group has adopted a policy to fight for the right to repair electronics, but it might not be the one you'd expect: farmers.
The right to repair movement is an effort to loosen laws to allow consumers to be able to fix technology without sending it back to the original manufacturer. Right now, replacement parts and diagnostic tools are carefully guarded by the manufacturer, and right to repair supporters believe they should be available to the public. The effort has largely been driven by the consumer tech sector—like people who want to be able to fix their iPhone instead of buying a new one—but the lack of access to repair materials has greatly impacted farmers, too.
Modern farm equipment is high tech and includes onboard computers, but the majority of farming equipment manufacturers refuse to allow access to the software, claiming it's proprietary information. That means farmers are stuck waiting for a John Deere technician to swap a tiny sensor when it misfires and shuts down the entire tractor.
They'd rather just fix it themselves or, at the very least, take it to someone locally who can do the job. But right now, that's not possible.
"John Deere is behaving exactly as Apple is behaving, in a wholly different market: they're selling equipment and then they're not allowing anybody to fix it except them," said Gay Gordon-Byrne, the executive director of Repair.org, a lobbying group that pushes for right the repair legislation.