Thursday, January 26, 2023

American Farm Bureau Signs Right to Repair Memorandum of Understanding with John Deere

by Colter Brown

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, January 8, 2023 – The American Farm Bureau Federation and John Deere signed a memorandum of understanding today that ensures farmers’ and ranchers’ right to repair their own farm equipment. The MOU, signed at the 2023 AFBF Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the culmination of several years of discussions between AFBF and John Deere.

“AFBF is pleased to announce this agreement with John Deere. It addresses a long-running issue for farmers and ranchers when it comes to accessing tools, information and resources, while protecting John Deere’s intellectual property rights and ensuring equipment safety,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “A piece of equipment is a major investment. Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired, or to repair it themselves, to help control costs. The MOU commits John Deere to ensuring farmers and independent repair facilities have access to many of the tools and software needed to grow the food, fuel and fiber America’s families rely on.”

David Gilmore, John Deere Senior Vice President, Ag & Turf Sales & Marketing, said, “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.”

The MOU sets parameters and creates a mechanism to address farmers’ concerns. John Deere commits to engaging with farmers and dealers to resolve issues when they arise and agrees to meet with AFBF at least twice per year to evaluate progress.

The agreement formalizes farmers’ access to diagnostic and repair codes, as well as manuals (operator, parts, service) and product guides. It also ensures farmers will be able to purchase diagnostic tools directly from John Deere and receive assistance from the manufacturer when ordering parts and products.

The MOU has the potential to serve as a model for other manufacturers and AFBF has already begun those discussions.

In return for signing the agreement, AFBF agrees to encourage state Farm Bureau organizations to back the MOU and decline from “introducing, promoting, or supporting federal or state ‘Right to Repair’ legislation” that goes beyond the obligations spelled out in the six-page MOU.

Mark McHargue, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, was among the first Farm Bureau state leaders to start negotiating for private agreements with farm equipment companies. He called the MOU signing a “watershed moment” between the country’s largest farm organization and the largest manufacturer of machinery and parts. He noted the agreement gives farmers the ability to use third-party technicians to develop tools and software for repairs.

“That’s not something we probably could have done before this MOU,” McHargue said.

Deere also agrees in the MOU for meetings twice a year with AFBF members to talk about repair issues or related problems.

“Fundamentally, I think it tips the scale for the farmer in ways that we haven’t had before when it comes to diagnostics and repairs,” McHargue said.

Farm Bureau has been engaging with other equipment manufacturers, but the talks with Deere had progressed quicker and further along than with others, McHargue said.

Sam Kieffer, vice president of public affairs for AFBF, said the MOU differentiates between the “right to repair” and modifying a piece of equipment. Kieffer said part of the marching orders in negotiating a policy with Deere was to focus on the right to repair but differentiate that issue from modifying a piece of equipment. Kieffer said AFB as an organization supports intellectual property rights.

Kieffer also acknowledged part of the intention behind the MOU is “to find a solution in the private sector” because both state and federal legislation created a different set of problems or did not address agriculture.

“The intent of this MOU was to work directly with manufacturers to find what it is that producers wanted and needed,” Kieffer said. In Congress, “There was legislation in the House, there was legislation in the United States Senate. Our intent is to work with the manufacturers and solve the problems ourselves and let Congress focus on other very important things like the farm bill.”

Collis Jones, vice president of U.S. policy and strategy at John Deere, said the intent is to formalize the tools and offering of products provided to Deere customers today.

“As you look across the country, there is a lot of confusion, a lot of misunderstanding about what we offer, but this formalizes to American Farm Bureau Federation members about what those exact offerings are,” Jones said.

Jones added, “Today, the first line of defense for actual product repair and breakdowns is actually working with your local dealer. So that’s not going to change.”

If there is an instance where there “is not the right connection between that dealer and that customer,” Deere “is there to support them and also working with our partners at the American Farm Bureau Federation to make sure any issues are resolved.”

The MOU is based on similar agreements in the automobile industry, Nebraska Farm Bureau noted. Through the MOU, farmers, ranchers, and independent repair facilities will have access to diagnostic and repair codes and their meanings, manuals and product guys. They will also be able to directly purchase diagnostic tools from John Deere and receive assistance from John Deere when ordering parts and products.

Read the MOU here.

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AFBF

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