John Deere says it will make it easier for farmers to repair their own equipment
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For years, some farming and consumer advocacy groups have accused John Deere — maker of tractors, balers and all kinds of expensive farm equipment — of keeping farmers from accessing diagnostic tools to fix that expensive farm equipment.
The company appears to have made a concession. This weekend, John Deere signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation saying farmers will now be allowed to buy the diagnostic tools and manuals they need to make their own repairs.
When Terry Griffin was a young adult in the ’80s and ’90s, he helped drive the tractor to plant crops on his family’s farm in Arkansas. He said he wasn’t very good at it.
“My attention span is fairly short,” Griffin said. “And that is not a good thing in order to be the person who’s trying to make straight rows of putting seed in the ground.”
Today’s tractors have GPS and other technology that make it easier to plant in straight lines, said Griffin, who is now an agricultural economist at Kansas State University.
But there’s a drawback: “It made it simpler to operate, but more complex to repair.”
John Deere products account for more than 40% of the market share for tractors and other agricultural machinery in the United States. This memorandum of understanding with the company means that farmers won’t have to haul that machinery in need of repairs to John Deere-authorized mechanics who might be hours away.
“If there is an error code, they can make the fix, even if it’s temporary, just to finish the job,” said Sam Kieffer with the American Farm Bureau Federation. Or farmers can take it to a local independent mechanic.
David Gilmore, John Deere’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, said at a press conference this weekend that the company knows its machines are a big investment for farmers.
“And the opportunity for them to maximize the uptime of that equipment and minimize the downtime is an important area of focus for our organization and for the industry,” he said.
John Deere said the prices for the diagnostic tools vary. The company’s database of technical manuals listed prices as high as $3,160 for one year of access.
The agreement is a step in the right direction, he said, but “the concern is that there’s no enforcement mechanism in this memorandum. It’s just an agreement between Farm Bureau and John Deere.”
In fact, the Farm Bureau agreed to refrain from supporting right-to-repair legislation at the state or federal level as part of the memorandum.
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