January 14, 2020

Farmers have become the unexpected heroes of the right-to-repair movement

A growing number of maverick farmers are buying old tractors instead of cowing to controlling manufacturers -- and becoming heroes of the right to repair movement.

John Deere’s new trucks may feature fancy new computers — but can you fix them yourself

Usually, the answer’s no… and for self-reliant farmers, that’s a problem. As Minnesota’s Star Tribune first reported, farmers are buying 40-year-old tractors so they can make their own repairs.

It’s the vintage advantage

When a John Deere tractor from the 1970s or ’80s breaks down, it takes a little bit of know-how and elbow grease to get it up and running again. 

But when a newer John Deere tractor breaks down, it takes a mechanic’s visit from an authorized dealer to check the computers and fix the problem — and these visits can cost as much as $150/hour.

And it’s not just tractors, either…

Owners of cars, cellphones, computers, and other electronics are also often forced to visit authorized dealers for simple repairs, which has inspired consumer advocates to lobby for right-to-repair laws.

The movement really picked up steam last year, when right-to-repair legislation was introduced in 20 states and the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop called “Nixing the Fix” that addressed both manufacturers’ and consumers’ rights. 

But several large companies — we’re looking at you, Apple — continue to face criticism for making it difficult for consumers to repair their products.

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