Colorado passes right-to-repair law: Could it be the trend-setter for farm equipment?
May 2, 2023
By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Colorado law goes into effect Jan 1, 2024
- Dozens of similar pieces of proposed legislation among the states
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Colorado’s first-in-the-nation law allowing farmers to repair their own equipment could be “the first chink in the armor” that has allowed only manufacturers to complete some repairs, said Rusty Rumley, senior staff attorney for the National Agricultural Law Center.
Farmers have long been accustomed to repairing their equipment or turning to a nearby independent repair shop to make speedy fixes during planting, growing, and harvest. In the last decade or so, farmers have found those efforts thwarted not only by increasingly complex technology and lack of manuals and tools, but also protection of intellectual property that goes along with software-driven machinery.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill on April 25, hailing it as “a common-sense bipartisan bill to help people avoid unnecessary delays from equipment repairs.”
Starting Jan. 1, 2024, the Colorado law will require manufacturers of agricultural equipment to provide parts, embedded software, firmware, tools, or documentation, such as diagnostic, maintenance, or repair manuals, diagrams, or similar information resources, to independent repair providers and owners of the manufacturer’s agricultural equipment to allow them to service or repair the owner’s agricultural equipment.
“Farmers and ranchers can lose precious weeks and months when equipment repairs are stalled due to long turnaround times by manufacturers and dealers,” Polis said.
For the manufacturers, there are worries over trade secrets.
“How much of the computer code are they going to say they can’t release because competitors could take it and use it themselves,” Rumley said. “They might say that this should be protected by trade secrets, so there may be some litigation on aspects such as that. For a lot of these companies, the repair side of the industry is, or has been, a really important economic driver. It’s not just selling the new tractor or combine, it’s the repair work.”
Part of a bigger story
Rumley said agriculture equipment is only one aspect of a larger story. Similar issues exist with motorized wheelchairs, phones, tablets, and other electronic equipment. The Colorado law includes motorized wheelchairs, but not consumer electronics items.
“There are some 50 pieces of right-to-repair legislation floating out there amongst the states,” he said. “There’s a lot of push out there, and this is the first one to get past, at least on the ag side.”
One characteristic of the Colorado law is “it specifically says, if Congress ever passes a national right-to-repair act, the Colorado one goes away and they’ll live with whatever the federal one is,” Rumley said. “I don’t think we’re close to a federal one yet.”
Back in January, ag equipment maker John Deere signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation to ensure farmers and ranchers retained the right to repair their own equipment.
Find additional information about agricultural law at the National Agricultural Law Center.
The center is part of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. The Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
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