We may be just a month into 2018, but action is already underway when it comes to a major issue affecting farmers and ranchers this year.

An increasing number of farmers and ranchers have said in recent seasons that they want access to more tools that tell them about the service, repair and maintenance needs for their tractors and combines. As representatives of farm equipment manufacturers and their dealer networks, we're proud to say that we've heard our customers loud and clear and are prepared to act.

Manufacturers and dealers are announcing a new commitment to make a comprehensive suite of service and diagnostic information for tractors and combines available in the coming years. It is a commonsense response to meet the needs of our end users.

Manufacturers and dealers of farm equipment have a shared incentive with their customers to minimize downtime and maximize productivity. That is part of the reason why manufacturers have invested so much in cutting-edged innovations in farm equipment that incorporate the latest technology into tractors and combines. 

These tools are revolutionizing production agriculture. Consider this: a modern tractor contains more lines of software than the early versions of the Space Shuttle.

But while this software is already revolutionizing farming, our industry must respond to our end-users' needs. They need to have the tools to determine when they can make a simple fix to their tractor and combine, or whether they need to involve their dealer technicians, who themselves invest countless hours in staying up-to-date on the latest technology.

That is why manufacturers and dealers have made an industry commitment to make available the tools farmers need to navigate onboard technology. In the near future, end users will have access to on-board diagnostics tools via in-cab display or wireless interface, electronic diagnostic service tools and training on how to use both. Manufacturers and dealers will also make available manuals, product guides, and product service information.

A number of manufacturers already make many of these materials available. By 2021 — or in some instances, earlier – customers should be able to expect the same level of information for their tractors and combines across manufacturing brands. This is an appropriate solution that makes so-called "Right to Repair" legislation unnecessary.

Proponents of Right to Repair have advocated for overly-broad laws that would allow for unfettered access to the software that governs on-board technology on farm equipment. Giving access to the source code would not only undermine manufacturers' innovation and intellectual property, it would more alarmingly risk allowing modifications that would run afoul of safety and emissions requirements for farm equipment. The right for a farmer to repair his or her equipment does not extend to an unlawful right to modify its software.

This is a distinction manufacturers and dealers intend to highlight throughout the year. We did so in Kansas City at the beginning of January for the State Ag and Rural Leaders Summit. We have continued to do so in meetings in statehouses across the United States. This is an effort to connect state lawmakers with industry experts to learn about how manufacturers and dealers are working to address the needs of their customers. We hope they see that we take the needs of our customers very seriously.

And while farm equipment technology advances, we will continue to strive to deliver world-class products and repair solutions to our customers. We invite readers to learn more about these commonsense solutions by visiting http://www.R2RSolutions.org.

About the authors:

Dennis Slater is President of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the premiere North American trade association representing more than 950 companies and more than 200 product lines in the agriculture, construction, forestry, mining and utility sectors worldwide.

Kim Rominger is President and CEO of Equipment Dealers Association. He has 34 years of experience in equipment dealer association management, and served for the past 17 years as CEO of various regional equipment dealer associations.