Right-to-Repair Debate

Attorneys General Call on Congress to Pass Right-to-Repair Legislation

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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New tractors leaving the John Deere plant in Waterloo, Iowa, in 2021. Deere and CNH Industries (Case IH and New Holland) have signed agreements to allow more access to their diagnostic tools and manuals for farmers and repair shops. Still, attorneys general in 27 states and territories are calling on Congress to pass a right-to-repair bill for autos, farm equipment and consumer digital equipment. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- A bipartisan group of 27 attorneys general have joined in a letter calling on Congress to pass right-to-repair legislation for agricultural equipment, automobiles and digital consumer goods.

In their letter, the attorneys general cited that right-to-repair is a growing issue around the country "that impacts every consumer, household and farm in a time of increasing inflation." The letter adds that right-to-repair ensures consumers have choices about "who, where, when and at what cost their vehicles can be repaired." The issue also helps ensure small "mom-and-pop" repair shops "can remain competitive against a closed system favored by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)."

The AGs added, "It is about ensuring that farmers can repair their tractors for a reasonable price and quickly enough to harvest their crops."

The letter from the AGs also points to consumers needing to fix their smartphones at small, independent shops as well at more affordable prices. "It is about ensuring that rural consumers can obtain important repairs locally and quickly."

Right-to-repair bills have been introduced in at least 11 states so far this year, but eyes are on Colorado where the state Senate passed a modified bill focusing on farm machinery March 16 following an earlier bill that passed the state House. That bill would require farm machinery manufacturers to sell equipment, diagnostic tools and manuals to farmers and independent repair shops starting next year.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has opted for a different strategy, having announced memorandums of understanding with both John Deere and CNH Industrial (Case IH and New Holland). Those agreements give farmers and independent technicians access to software and manuals through subscriptions or purchase. In return for those manufacturer agreements, AFBF also agreed not to lobby for right-to-repair legislation and encourage state affiliates not to lobby for such bills either.

The attorneys general, in their letter to Congress, cited, "Manufacturing of automobiles, digital devices and agricultural equipment is increasingly becoming more technologically advanced and built with more embedded electronics. OEMs often control access to these electronic parts, creating unfair restraint of trade and a monopoly on repair."

The AGs also pointed out that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report on the various ways manufacturers are restricting competition for repairs.

The last Congress had multiple bills introduced about the right to repair. So far, fewer bills have been introduced, but one bipartisan bill is H.R. 906, the REPAIR Act. The AGs, in their letter, point out that a national survey of farmers by National Farmers Union and the group U.S. PIRG showed 95% of farmers support the right to repair their own farm machinery. Other surveys show about 75% of consumers support allowing independent repair shops access to diagnostic tools and equipment to make repairs.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Democrat, and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, led the letter. Other state and territory AGs that joined include the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington state and Wisconsin.

The AGs' letter was sent to the chairs and ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Also see "AFBF Reaches Right-to-Repair Deal With Case IH, New Holland Equipment" here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Chris Clayton