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To the Editor:
For the third year in a row, President Trump spoke at the American Farm Bureau's annual convention to show support for our nation's most important industry -- agriculture. This year's theme, "2020 Vision: Sustaining America's Agriculture," focused on the technological advances and improvement in environmental sustainability in the agriculture industry and highlighted the best economic strategies to help farmers thrive.
As we've entered the modern era, technology has helped shape the agriculture industry to become more efficient and help us to use our limited resources in a more sustainable way.
These advancements in technology give us the ability to be more efficient producers and great stewards of our land, but we can't forget that policy has also shaped how the agriculture industry operates. We can only continue to advance if we have smart policies in place. That is why it's important that as state legislatures begin their sessions this year, we all must pay attention to bills that would affect our industry.
One reoccurring bill that would seriously affect our industry is something called "right to repair" or "fair repair" legislation. This is not a new issue, as 23 states have introduced this type of legislation over the past few years. None of those states have adopted it as law, however, and there's a pretty good reason for that.
That's because most of these bills would allow third parties and potentially bad actors to steal, modify, or eliminate embedded code that allows a tractor or combine to operate. Modern-era tractors are highly advanced pieces of machinery that improve the farmer's productivity, safety and environmental footprint. But right to repair laws would seriously undermine all of these benefits while forcing manufacturers to relinquish proprietary information.
So why would states even consider "right to repair" bills? Proponents of the bills have been pushing the false notion that farmers can't fix their farming equipment without access to all of the equipment's software and code. But in reality, efforts to pass "right to repair" bills are not farmer-led initiatives but are being led by well-funded activists whose main goal is to gain unfettered access to the equipment's technology.
As a producer, I know firsthand how the entire agriculture community and eco-system depends, supports and relies on one another for our continued success. As the equipment has become more high-tech and precision agriculture has boosted efficiency, the industry and equipment makers have had to equip users with additional tools to fix more complex equipment, which is happening.
The Farm Bureau's annual convention brings American farmers and ranchers together once a year to focus on the industry's future. That is why it's important that as state legislators consider and vote on agriculture policy this session, they should think about the implications it will have on farmers, manufacturers and the entire agriculture industry.
Editor's Note: Ben Wikner is a producer from Farmersburg, Iowa, and was named a 2019 Pig Farmer of Tomorrow. His letter was submitted on behalf of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which is becoming involved in the right-to-repair issue. AEM will be have in a booth about the subject at this year's Commodity Classic, February 26-29 in San Antonio.
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