Breaking News
More () »

Farmers and state lawmakers seek 'right to repair' their own equipment to save money

Farm equipment issues can cost thousands to repair, but farmers' own representatives are pushing back against a bill that would let them fix things on their own.

DENVER — Danny Wood paid a farm equipment technician $950 to come to his property and fix a new tractor last year. When that technician arrived, all they did was re-enter a five-digit code to make the systems work right.

“The worst thing is, I had already spent $23,000 [to install the guidance system] and then another $8,500 [to upgrade it] and I had to pay him another $950 to put that code back in there,” the farmer from Peetz said.

“To me, when you buy it, it should be yours, but it seems like they just want us to be renting it from them.”

Wood testified before a state house committee on Monday in favor of a bill that would force manufacturers to make more parts and information available to farmers who want to fix their own equipment.

“I fix all of our own machinery, but now they’re so sophisticated with the electronics. Which is good, that’s why we like them, they’re efficient,” Wood said.  “But there are small things you do, if you change a sensor or anything, then they have to come out or give you codes and reprogram it or it won’t work right.”

State Rep. Briana Titone (D-Arvada) is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Ron Weinberg (R-Larimer County).

“It’s giving the person who owns it more ownership over it. Because if you can’t fix it, do you really own it if you always have to go back to the person who made that equipment?” Titone said in an interview on Tuesday. “The right to repair will give people the ability to get the parts, the manuals and the specialized tools a lot of times, to be able to fix their own things.”

Titone is no stranger to the concept. She helped pass a bill last year that gives power wheelchair users similar ability to get parts and information needed to fix their wheelchairs.

“What we’re trying to do with this bill is to try to give them some control over when the unexpected problems happen with their equipment so they can respond as fast as they can,” she said. “You heard in the testimony that there are people getting devices and codebreakers and hacks from China and Russia to try to do these fixes on their tractors right now.”

During testimony on Monday in committee, representatives from the farm equipment manufacturing industry expressed concerns that changing the rules will make it easier for farmers to remove emission controls from their systems. Titone noted tampering with emission controls would remain illegal under this bill.

“What we’re trying to do is give people the ability to fix their things… not to tamper, not to modify. But to get their things running,” she said.

The bill passed out of committee on a party line 9-4 vote, with all Republicans on the House Agriculture committee voting no.

One of them was Wood’s own state representative, Rep. Richard Holtorf (R-Akron).

“I’m concerned that consumer rights activism in the agricultural space could be damaging to the many dealers and the many service departments that those dealerships have,” Holtorf said.

He also pointed out that many farmers have been given access to the information they’re requesting in this bill through a memorandum of understanding between the Farm Bureau and John Deere earlier this year.

“It just infringes on what I would call proprietary and technological property rights,” Holtorf said.

He said the focus should be on the lack of agricultural equipment technicians in rural Colorado.

“Everybody wants things fixed, but when you develop systems and technology that cost literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to develop, how do you just give that away to everybody in the consumer space,” he said.

The bill now moves to the full House for a vote.

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Next with Kyle Clark

Before You Leave, Check This Out