Montana Senator Jon Tester is pushing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine the importance of “right to repair”—the ability of a buyer to repair their own equipment—for Montanans working in production agriculture. Tester called the effort part of his continued work to help Montana farmers and ranchers stay in business during these challenging times.

“Protecting the right of Montana farmers and ranchers to repair their own equipment is critical to keeping the operation running smoothly, and keeping input costs low,” wrote Tester in a letter to FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson. “…Right now, everything from smartphones to tractors require diagnostic software and equipment to make repairs. However, a smartphone and a combine are not the same, and if we continue to lump the two together when developing right to repair policy, rural America will bear the brunt of the impact.”

Tester continued: “Right to repair could be an important tool, but only if the policy is carefully targeted and not overly broad. Especially as farmers across Montana are harvesting their crops, it is critically important that they have the ability to fix their equipment in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

Right to repair is the ability of a consumer to repair their own equipment through accessing product service manuals, guides, diagnostic equipment, parts, and necessary software. With advanced technology now being incorporated into production agriculture, it is becoming more and more difficult for farmers and ranchers to fix their own equipment, so many have come to rely on dealer-certified shops that hurt both the producer and local repair shops. Tester is pushing the FTC to take the necessary steps to address right to repair and ensure that these policies work for agriculture in Montana.

Montana Farmers Union (MFU) was pleased to see Senator Tester take action on the right to repair issue. MFU President Walter Schweitzer, who ranches near Geyser, MT, said he is experiencing first-hand the effects of not being able to repair his own equipment.

“I have a tractor that has been broken down for three weeks,” said Schweitzer. “It has been in the dealer’s shop and they have yet to replicate the problem.  If I could own or rent the diagnostic software I could troubleshoot my equipment in the field and avoid costly delays. I own the tractor and should have the right to repair it.  We sacrificed our markets to China over an intellectual property fight and now equipment manufacturers can hold your equipment hostage with that intellectual property. I commend Senator Tester for taking action on this very important issue.”

 

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Office of Senator Jon Tester/Montana Farmers Union

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