LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Two right-to-repair interest groups on Thursday alleged John Deere and Company appears to be violating the Clean Air Act by not allowing farm equipment owners or independent repair shops to repair emissions systems on Deere implements, according to a news release. Those groups called on EPA to investigate the company.
Repair.org and the Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, said they believe Deere's repair restrictions "run contrary" to a Clean Air Act requirement for companies to state in equipment owner's manuals that independent repair shops and farmers are to be allowed to repair emissions control systems.
The Clean Air Act requires manufacturers of non-road diesel engines to apply for and obtain a certificate of conformity for an engine family. Those certificates expire at the end of every year. EPA can deny or revoke the company's certification if a manufacturer fails to comply with emissions standards.
Companies are required to provide several things on the applications.
The verbiage in the application includes this phrase: "State clearly in your written maintenance instructions that a repair shop or person of the owner's choosing may maintain, replace, or repair emission-control devices and systems. Your instructions may not require components or service identified by brand, trade, or corporate name.
"Also, do not directly or indirectly condition your warranty on a requirement that the engine be serviced by your franchised dealers or any other service establishments with which you have a commercial relationship."
Repair.org board member Willie Cade told DTN that ag manufacturing companies can avoid the requirement by doing one of two things.
According to the Clean Air Act, companies can provide a component or service without charge under the purchase agreement or ask EPA for a waiver by providing evidence an engine will work properly only by using a company's parts or service.
Cade said EPA has granted no such waivers, and only a few John Deere equipment manuals comply with Clean Air Act section 1039.125(f).
"In fact, Deere and Company prohibits owners or third-party repair by limiting access to the dealer level John Deere Service Advisor and the Deere Technical Assistance Center," Cade said.
"It is important to note that customer-level John Deere Service Advisor currently provided by Deere and Company to owners and independent service organizations excludes the ability to maintain, replace, or repair emission equipment."
When asked by DTN why the group's research focuses solely on John Deere equipment, Cade said Repair.org has seen very few similar right-to-repair complaints levied at other equipment manufacturers. About 95% of all large tractors are manufactured by three companies -- Deere, CNH Industrial and AGCO.
"I've heard of maybe one or two (complaints) but not many in my research and conversation with farmers," he said. "Deere is far and away the most complained-about company."
Cade said Repair.org wants to conduct similar research on other equipment manufacturers but is limited in gaining access to other owner's manuals. At least some other companies, he said, require website users to have online accounts and provide manuals for free only to users who have an actual record of purchasing certain equipment models.
Beginning in 2004, Clean Air Act section 1039.125(f) required equipment manufacturers to include the language in question on the front page of manuals, Cade said. That continued until 2016 when EPA changed the requirement to allow companies to include the language anywhere in manuals.
John Deere did not respond to DTN's requests for comment.
At least 16 class-action lawsuits have been filed by farmers against Deere, alleging the company's practice of limiting repairs to Deere dealers on emissions control and other systems on farm equipment has allowed the company to monopolize the repair market and caused antitrust hardship to farmers.
When asked by DTN if the agency is investigating the groups' claims, an EPA spokesperson responded, "EPA cannot comment on potential or ongoing enforcement action."
DEERE JUNE 2 STATEMENT
In a June 2 statement to DTN, Deere said that for more than 180 years, the company has "empowered" customers to maintain and repair their own equipment.
"That's why we provide tools, parts, training videos, manuals, and remote access for customers to work on their machines," the company said.
"John Deere equipment is manufactured to the highest engineering standards to maximize performance while protecting the safety and health of our customers and the environment. While we support the customers' right to maintain and repair their products, we do not support customers modifying embedded software due to risks related to safety, emissions compliance and the uncertainty it creates in the aftermarket."
Deere said it already offers a variety of tools to farmers to help maintain and repair their equipment. That includes access to repair manuals, Customer Service ADVISOR, a diagnostic and information tool that customers and independent repair shops can purchase from dealers or online directly from John Deere as of May 2022.
In addition, the company said it provides JDLink, which connects a machine's information to the web and can alert customers to issues as they develop and provide other useful information like location and status.
Deere said it also provides Connected Support, which allows dealers to remotely analyze, clear and refresh diagnostic trouble codes in "near real-time" to isolate potential issues with a customer's machines.
Read more on DTN:
"Nearly All Deere Repair Cases Combined," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Read Clean Air Act section 1039.125(f) here: https://www.ecfr.gov/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
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