MADISON -- Farmers are hoping a new bill may give them the right to repair.
"When I was farming, everything was much simpler," Kenneth Nelson reminisced. He has retired from his days out in the fields, but he sees younger farmers in his family facing a new challenge: their tractors feature technology that can only be repaired by the manufacturer.
It can often mean spending thousands of dollars, sometimes just to haul the equipment to a manufacturer.
At the Madison County Fair, those working in ag, like Curtis Wolff, told NCN it's a raw deal.
"I think if they bought the piece of equipment, they should be able to decide for themselves how to fix it," said Wolff.
This week - the 'Right to Repair' is getting the attention of President Joe Biden. He's reportedly ready to direct the Federal Trade Commission to stop manufacturers from limiting the ability of consumers to repair products.
"The right to repair is useful for the farmer to save a lot of money," said Patricia Schultz, a farm manager of Iowa Schultz farms.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau had previously supported “Right to Repair” legislation, calling the "timely and affordable repair of equipment"..."vital to farmers".
Manufacturers are pushing back. Some claim to allow consumers to do their own repairs can compromise brand integrity and could actually add costs.
A local manufacturer to Norfolk said there is also an issue of uncertified technicians working with the equipment, and stated the bill is very vague and unclear.
John Deere told NCN they support farmers doing their own repairs, but that it can be dangerous:
Deere supports a customer’s right to safely maintain, diagnose, and repair their equipment. When customers buy from John Deere, they own the equipment and can choose to personally maintain or repair the product.
- We lead our industry in providing repair tools, spare parts, information guides, training videos and manuals needed to work on our machines, including remote access for technicians to provide long-distance help.
- John Deere does not support the right to modify embedded software due to risks associated with the safe operation of the equipment, emissions compliance and engine performance.
- Approximately, less than two percent of all repairs require a software update, so the majority of repairs farmers need to make, can be made themselves.
- When our customers buy a machine, they make the decision about whether to maintain and repair it themselves or to call on a John Deere technician.
- Additional information can be found at www.JohnDeere.com/repair
Still, locals said they're already investing money into learning how to repair the equipment themselves.
"The younger farmers today have their own shops, they do the work themselves, a lot of them have been to a tech school to learn hydraulics and work on mechanics," said Nelson.
An announcement about an executive order on these issues could come as early as Friday. The USDA said that's when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak will be in Omaha for a major announcement.
This bill would affect more than just farm equipment; the legislation impacts things like Apple Computers and Tesla electric vehicles.