The American Farm Bureau Federation on Sunday signed an agreement with Deere and Co. that is designed to let farmers and independent mechanics identify and repair problems with Deere equipment. The deal stops short of enabling farmers to modify equipment.  

A memorandum of understanding between the nation’s largest farm organization and Deere “will ensure farmers everywhere are able to repair our own equipment,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall told delegates to the group’s annual convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

“You will have access to the diagnostic tools and information you need. And you’ll get it at a fair and reasonable price,” he said. 

The MOU comes as equipment manufacturers are under pressure from the Federal Trade Commission to address consumer “right to repair” concerns, including lack of access to equipment software. President Biden signed an executive order in 2021 directing the FTC to create new regulations preventing “unfair anticompetitive restrictions.”

“This is just the beginning of a process," Duvall said. "We will meet regularly with John Deere to discuss solutions to the challenges farmers are facing in repairing their equipment.

“It has been a long journey to get here. I couldn’t be more proud of the team that negotiated the agreement. And I hope John Deere is the first of many farm equipment companies we can come to an agreement with.” 

The six-page MOU, which was signed by Duvall and David Gilmore, Deere's senior vice president of sales and marketing, says the agreement is intended to "assure the timely availability, on Fair and Reasonable terms, of Tools, Specialty Tools, Software and Documentation originating from Manufacturer, and Data from the operation of Agricultural Equipment originating from Manufacturer." 

But the MOU says the agreement will "assure that no safety controls or protocols on Agricultural Equipment are compromised through the modification of protective measures installed for the benefit of Agricultural Equipment owners, operators and bystanders; assure that the intellectual property of Manufacturer, including copyrighted software, is fully protected from illegal infringement through the modification of Embedded Software; and assure that compliance with federal and state emissions control requirements is not compromised. ..."

From Deere’s perspective “the intent of this MOU is actually to formalize the tools and offerings that we provide to our customers today,” said Collin Jones, vice president of U.S. public affairs policy and strategy for Deere. “As you look across the country there's a lot of confusion, a lot of misunderstanding, about what we offer .”

In line with AFBF policy, the agreement won't enable farmers to get data needed to modify equipment, said Sam Kieffer, AFBF vice president for public policy.

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AFBF agreed in the MOU to encourage state Farm Bureaus "to recognize the commitments made in this MOU and refrain from introducing, promoting, or supporting federal or state 'Right to Repair' legislation that imposes obligations beyond the commitments in this MOU."                        

Legislative solutions have proven hard to pass, Kieffer said. "The intent of this MOU was to work directly with the manufacturers to find what it is that producers wanted and needed," he said. 

Elsewhere in his speech, Duvall warned members that they face a significant task in convincing members of Congress to pass a new farm bill that protects programs for producers. 

Eighty-one members of Congress are new this year, and nearly half of all lawmakers weren’t around for development and passage of the 2018 farm bill, he said. 

“We have to put in the extra work to show them why we need to pass the farm bill this year,” Duvall said. 

Duvall reiterated AFBF’s position that federal crop insurance should be protected from cuts and expanded in the bill, and that the nutrition title shouldn’t be severed from the legislation. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which will account for about 80% of farm bill spending, is expected to be targeted for cuts when House Republicans take up the legislation.

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