Farmers are the vanguard of the Right to Repair movement; accustomed as they are to fixing their own equipment (you can't wait for a repair tech when the tractor doesn't work -- as the saying goes, you have to make hay while the sun shines), they were outraged when companies like John Deere started using DRM to pick their pockets, creating tractors whose engines wouldn't recognize a new part until they paid a tech a few hundred dollars to drive out in a day or two and key an unlock code into the tractor's keyboard.
Right to Repair legislation introduced across the country this year had staunch farmers' backing, thanks to the incredibly effective lobbying machine representing the agriculture sector. But that support just evaporated in California.
In California, the Farm Bureau just sat down with John Deere's lobbyists, the Equipment Dealers Association, who, facing the nationwide Right to Repair bills, had agreed to a minor suite of concessions to tractor owners. But when the California Farm Bureau got up from the table, they had won exactly nothing beyond the existing nationwide concessions.
And that’s exactly the point: There will likely no longer be a right to repair push for farmers in California. What this means, then, is that the most powerful lobby fighting for right to repair sold out its constituency for no discernible reason, by agreeing to a manufacturer-centric version of right to repair that gives farmers literally nothing that they weren’t already going to get.
In doing so, it’s difficult to imagine the California Farm Bureau continuing to fight for right to repair legislation in that state.
"When it is up to the manufacturer to decide what information to share and what to withhold, you haven't addressed the problem," Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director of the Repair Association, which is leading the right to repair movement, told Motherboard in an email. "We're also concerned that the agreement fails to mention anything about fair and reasonable pricing for parts, nor any mention of how farmers will get firmware, updates or patches."
This is a bad deal for farmers, who are now almost certainly screwed in California. Without the Farm Bureau’s support, agricultural equipment may be written out of any future right to repair legislation. It’s also not good news for anyone else, because the loss of a powerful right to repair lobby could have trickle-down effects that harm the whole effort. California, it should be noted, is a particularly important state considering it’s the home base of Apple and many other electronics companies.
Farmer Lobbying Group Sells Out Farmers, Helps Enshrine John Deere's Tractor Repair Monopoly [Jason Koebler/Motherboard]