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MOLINE, Ill. — A long-standing battle between farmers and John Deere is being resolved.
The equipment manufacturer based in the Quad Cities and the American Farm Bureau Federation have signed a memorandum of understanding that ensures farmers and ranchers have the right to repair their own John Deere farm equipment — and not take their broken tractors and other implements to an authorized dealer instead.
Farmers say the requirement can unduly delay their operations, particularly during spring planting and fall harvesting, and drive up costs.
The memorandum, signed Sunday at the federation's convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, follows several years of discussions between the two sides.
The agreement “addresses a long-running issue for farmers and ranchers when it comes to accessing tools, information and resources, while protecting John Deere’s intellectual property rights and ensuring equipment safety,” said farm federation President Zippy Duvall.
“A piece of equipment is a major investment. Farmers must have the freedom to choose where equipment is repaired, or to repair it themselves, to help control costs," he said.
The agreement “commits John Deere to ensuring farmers and independent repair facilities have access to many of the tools and software needed” to keep the equipment running, Duvall said.
David Gilmore, John Deere's senior vice president for farm and turf sales and marketing, said the agreement reaffirms the company's "long-standing commitment … to ensure our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to make many repairs to their machines."
John Deere commits to engaging with farmers and dealers to resolve issues when they arise and agrees to meet with the farm bureau federation at least twice per year to evaluate progress, the agreement said.
The agreement formalizes farmers’ access to diagnostic and repair codes and to operator, parts and service manuals and product guides, a news release said. It also ensures farmers will be able to purchase diagnostic tools directly from John Deere and receive assistance from the manufacturer when ordering parts and products.
Chad Hart, an economist at Iowa State University, said he sees the memorandum of understanding as a “first step” between the two sides.
“This represents an ongoing negotiation,” Hart said, noting the agreement calls for the two to talk every six months. “They expect fully they're going to have to make adjustments along the way,” he said.
Multiple class-action complaints were filed against Deere, alleging the company has monopolized the repair-service market with onboard computers called engine control units, of which the software and tools necessary to fix are inaccessible to farmers and non-Deere repair shops.
Right-to-repair policies would give independent dealers and Deere’s competition access to parts, software and information that would let them repair Deere equipment. According to a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund in March 2022, if all dealerships and mechanics took advantage of the policies, the number of repair options in Illinois — John Deere’s home state — would at least double.
John Deere, which employs nearly 76,000 workers worldwide, reported over $44 billion in net sales and revenues in 2021.
Gretchen Teske of the Quad City Times contributed to this report.