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Colorado sends agricultural right to repair bill to governor

If passed, it'll be the first law in the US to require tractor makers to hand over documentation and parts

Updated State legislators in Colorado have advanced an agricultural right to repair bill to Governor Jared Polis's desk for signature that, if passed, would be the first law of its kind in the United States.

The Consumer Right To Repair Agricultural Equipment bill would require manufacturers of agricultural equipment like tractors, combines and the like to provide parts, software, firmware, tools and documentation to independent repair shops and owners. Failure to comply with the law would result in a charge of deceptive trade practices.

The bill relies on many of the provisions of Colorado's previous right to repair law passed last year which specifically applies to wheelchairs. While it's not immediately clear if Polis would sign this latest bill, he was the signatory on the wheelchair bill. We invited Polis's office to comment but didn't immediately hear back.

Potentially the first law of its kind in the US, the Colorado bill is hardly alone; it's one of 11 agriculture repair bills being proposed at state levels. Many of the bills, or at least the efforts of right to repair advocates fighting for access to agricultural equipment, have focused on fighting tractor maker Deere & Company.

Deere and other manufacturers have expressed concerns that right to repair laws would require them to expose trade secrets, a carve-out for which was included in the Colorado bill. According to language in the rule forwarded to Polis yesterday, manufacturers may withhold information pertaining to components, their design and function, embedded software, firmware or tools "if the information is a trade secret and the usability … for the purpose of providing services is not diminished." 

How companies like Deere plan to respond to the law is also unclear. We asked Deere to comment but haven't heard back.

Deere is facing a large combined lawsuit for allegedly monopolizing repair of its tractors in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Lawsuits filed in Illinois and Alabama in early 2022 were merged with others last year, and an Illinois court is still working on the case.

Deere has tried to have the combined suit dismissed, but the US Department of Justice in February said it was watching the case and believed Deere was wrong to argue that its product and repair markets are unrelated, and therefore not violating antitrust laws. Such repair restrictions, the DoJ said last month, "can worsen the pressures that farmers increasingly face."

Deere in January signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation to increase access to repair tools and parts, which the Public Interest Research Group's (PIRG) right to repair campaign director, Kevin O'Reilly, said didn't go far enough.

"The 'pinky swear' MOUs signed by Deere and Case New Holland simply weren't getting the job done. By passing a real Right to Repair, Colorado lawmakers are setting the standard for what Right to Repair can look like across the country," O'Reilly said. 

PIRG was a backer of the Colorado bill, and a report it released yesterday just prior to the bill's passing the Colorado Senate said the passage of the law, and others like it, could save US farmers $4.2 billion (£3.4 billion) a year. 

Electronics repair company and advocacy group iFixit weighed in too, with CEO Kyle Wiens expressing support for the bill's passage. "We're thrilled to see this right extended to farmers in Colorado, and we expect that other states will follow suit," Wiens said

O'Reilly echoed Wiens' sentiments, saying the road to get farmers the right tools to repair has been a long, tough one. "But farmers across the country should know: this is just the start," O'Reilly said. ®

Updated to add

"Governor Polis is excited to sign this bill - which was backed by his Department of Ag - to help support our farmers and ranchers, who can lose precious time when equipment repairs are delayed due to long turnaround times by manufacturers and dealers," his press secretary Conor Cahill told The Register.

"This new bipartisan law builds upon the work of the Governor in partnership with the legislature prior right to repair success that is saving people with disabilities money on wheelchair repairs."

A spokesperson for John Deere was, however, less enthusiastic.

"We feel strongly that the legislation in Colorado is unnecessary and will carry unintended consequences that negatively impact our customers," it told us in a statement.

"John Deere supports a customer's decision to repair their own products, utilize an independent repair service or have repairs completed by an authorized dealer. John Deere additionally provides manuals, parts, and diagnostic tools to facilitate maintenance and repairs."

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