What Is The “Right To Repair” Senate Bill?

Did you know that farmers don’t actually enjoy the right to fix their own equipment? When something breaks down, by law they almost always have to see a mechanic. A new Senate law called the “Right to Repair” bill would modify existing laws to expand the opportunities for farmers to fix their own farming equipment.

Fourth-generation cattle farmer Scott Potmesil said, “I visited with my local mechanic and asked which tractor he could fix, and it was a 1995 one. New equipment is getting so complicated and loaded with sensors. If one of them goes out, you can’t even start your tractor. You need a technician and software to identify the problem.”

This issue led Potmesil to find an older machine that might actually be fixed quickly and cheaply.

Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is one of the “Right to Repair” bill’s sponsors. He said, “We’ve got to figure out ways to empower farmers to make sure they can stay on the land. This is one of the ways to do it. I think that the more we can empower farmers to be able to control their own destiny, which is what this bill does, the safer food chains are going to be.”

Sometimes, the technicians required to do repairs like the ones Potmesil mentioned can take weeks to arrive on site.

Family farmer Jared Wilson said, “After May 10 here, if I don’t plant my soybeans, I’m losing yield. If you have two days of lost productivity and then it rains, you don’t get back in the field for two weeks. A few of those per season really adds up.”

PIRG is a group of nonprofit research groups that say laws governing agriculture need to adapt to the changing times. Currently, companies guarantee that repairs must be made in-house by manufacturing specific parts that no one else sells, writing code that locks a vehicle when a part fails, or writing warranties that prevent specialized mechanics from working on the equipment.