Deere Recalls Equipment Owner’s Manuals After Warning From EPA

by Colter Brown

John Deere has given farmers the green light to have at least some emission control devices and systems on its equipment repaired by independent repair shops. The move comes after the company issued a voluntary recall of equipment owner’s manuals following a warning from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the company may have been violating the Clean Air Act.

The EPA issued a warning to John Deere that previous equipment manuals that prohibited the repair of emissions control systems by anyone other than John Deere authorized dealers, may have violated the law.

It is not clear how many pieces of equipment were subject to the recall.

“Consistent with its authority under the Clean Air Act, EPA informed John Deere that EPA believed that a number of their products did not conform to EPA regulations with regard to their emissions warranty statement,” EPA said in a statement to DTN on Tuesday.

“John Deere has conducted a voluntary recall consistent with EPA regulations to address these potential nonconformities. While EPA has authority to compel this kind of remedy, most manufacturers choose to voluntarily recall products to address potential nonconformities as John Deere has done here.”

LETTERS SENT TO OWNERS

In February 2024, John Deere sent letters to an unknown number of Deere equipment owners notifying them of a potential oversight on the company’s part when it comes to equipment operator’s manuals.

In a copy of the letter obtained by DTN, John Deere Director of Product Support Chris Davison told customers that the company “strives to provide you with the most comprehensive information” in operator’s manuals regarding the “safe, effective operation of its products and solutions.”

Davison’s letter said that that also includes information on product warranties and aftermarket parts and services.

“John Deere recently discovered that the operator’s manual for one or more of your products may be missing the following statement which clarifies aftermarket support requirements to maintain emissions compliance,” the letter said.

The statement allegedly not included in operator’s manuals was the following: “A repair shop or person of the owner’s choosing may maintain, replace or repair emission control devices and systems with original or equivalent replacement parts. However, warranty, recall and all other services paid for by John Deere must be performed at an authorized John Deere service center.”

LAWSUIT AGAINST EPA

In January 2023, Willie Cade, Farm Action senior policy advisor agricultural right to repair, sued the EPA, alleging the agency was not enforcing certain Clean Air Act provisions against John Deere.

Cade sought an order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to require EPA Administrator Michael Regan to properly fulfill his duties on the issue. The lawsuit is still pending.

In July 2022, Repair.org and the Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, alleged Deere may have been in violation of the Clean Air Act by not allowing farm equipment owners or independent repair shops to repair emissions systems on Deere implements.

The groups said they believed Deere’s repair restrictions “run contrary” to a Clean Air Act requirement for companies to state in equipment owner’s manuals that independent repair shops and farmers are to be allowed to repair emissions control systems.

The Clean Air Act requires manufacturers of non-road diesel engines to apply for and obtain a certificate of conformity for an engine family. Those certificates expire at the end of every year. EPA can deny or revoke the company’s certification if a manufacturer fails to comply with emissions standards.

“The reality is that John Deere actively prevents repair of emissions by withholding the required tools (software) to do emissions repairs,” Cade said.

MEMORANDUMS OF UNDERSTANDING WITH AFBF

Equipment manufacturers including Deere have reached memorandums of understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation in the past two years. Those MOUs generally allow independent repair shops and farmers to subscribe or purchase diagnostic tools, https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Jared Wilson, a Bates County, Missouri, farmer who joined a federal antitrust lawsuit with other farmers against John Deere, said he received the February 2024 letter about his equipment manuals.

More than 17 farmers filed class-action lawsuits that are now consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Central Illinois. Those lawsuits are pending.

In the letter, Deere’s Davison provided links to the manuals where the update was made. That includes manuals in the John Deere Operation Center, John Deere Property Center and John Deere Technical Information Store.

RIGHT TO REPAIR DEBATE CONTINUES

Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer called the move by John Deere a victory for Right to Repair advocates.

“The fact that John Deere has acknowledged the EPA requirement also affirms that Farmers Union has been justified in advocating for the farmers ‘right to repair’ our own equipment,” Schweitzer said.

“Farmers Union continues to advocate for farmers “right to repair” their own equipment legislation at the national and state level that would require equipment manufacturers to provide the necessary tools for farmers to use third-party repair shops or fully repair their equipment themselves. The issue has been taken up by states, including Colorado, where right to repair legislation went into effect earlier this year. Efforts have been made at the federal level too, including the proposed Agricultural Right to Repair Act,” MFU said in a news release.

A national agricultural Right to Repair law could save U.S. farmers $4.2 billion per year when accounting for direct costs and equipment downtime, according to a report completed by PIRG and based on a survey from the National Farmers Union.

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DTN/MFU

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