Tag Archives: Right to Repair

John Deere Invests In Self-Driving Tractors And Smart Crop Sprayers

John Deere is rolling out self-driving tractors that can plow fields by themselves, and sprayers that distinguish weeds from crops. Deere, which helped make satellite-guided tractors ubiquitous in the U.S. Farm Belt over the past 20 years, is investing billions of dollars to develop smarter machines that the company said will make farming faster and more efficient than it ever could be with just farmers behind the wheel, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the Wall Street Journal, by the end of the decade, John May, Deere’s chief executive projects that 10% of Deere’s annual revenue will come from fees for using software.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that while farmers have said they are open to test-driving new technology, many are struggling with the cost of necessities including fertilizer and fuel, which have surged in price over the past year.

John Deere generated $44 billion in sales in 2021, and sells around 60% of the high-horsepower tractors used in the U.S. and Canada. Deere has been guiding farmers toward a bigger leap into technology for almost 20 years, starting with an autopilot system on tractors and harvesters that is now a standard feature on nearly all of Deere’s large farm machinery.

That said, not all farmers appear to be enthused about John Deere’s technological choices.

Walter Schweitzer, a farmer new Geyser, Montana, who also serves as president of the Montana Farmers Union, said he worried that further linking farm equipment to software managed by Deere could give the equipment company greater influence over farmers’ operations, while collecting data to benefit Deere’s own technology development.

According to The Wall Street Journal, The Montana Farmers Union has joined other farm groups in pushing Deere to broaden access to the software and tools to repair and work on Deere equipment, so independent repair shops and farmers themselves could do more fixes.

In August of 2022, Gizmodo reported that a hacker named Sick Codes had demonstrated a way to jail-break John Deere tractors, which could allow farmers the opportunity to self-repair their equipment. According to Gizmodo, as farming and agriculture continue to automate, John Deere has found a sneaky digitally gate keep diagnosis of faulty tractor parts to ensure that farmers are forced to turn to the company’s own repair services.

In July of 2021, the U.S Federal Trade Commission unanimously voted to ramp up law enforcement against repair restrictions that prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products. This, essentially, puts the “right to repair” in place.

To me, it sounds like the farmers who are using John Deere’s equipment have the “right to repair” it themselves, without relying on John Deere to do that for them. Personally, I don’t think people who need to use specific equipment to do their jobs should have to be burdened with wondering what a big company will do with the data it collects from them.

FTC Voted to Ramp Up Enforcement Against Illegal Repair Restrictions

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unanimously voted to ramp up law enforcement against repair restrictions that prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products. This decision essentially puts the “right to repair” in place.

The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the policy statement during an open Commission meeting that was live streamed to its website.

“These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said during an open Commission meeting. “The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor.”

In a policy statement, the Commission said it would target repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws enforced by the FTC or the FTC Act’s prohibitions on unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The FTC also urged the public to submit complaints of violations of the Magunson-Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits, among other things, tying a consumer’s product warranty to the use of a special service provider or product, unless the FTC has issued a waiver.

The FTC’s statements come days after the White House endorsed similar rules in an executive order on economic competition. That part of the executive order specifically states that the FTC will exercise rulemaking authority regarding several areas, including “unfair anticompetition and surveillance practices on third-party repair or self-repair of items, as imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.”

That part refers to farmers who use John Deere tractors, and who have sued for the right to repair their own tractors. Currently, some farmers face legal repercussions when they try to fix their machinery themselves.

The FTC could choose to use its new policy to prevent companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google from working to put a stop to laws that would require them to provide genuine repair parts and device schematics to independent repair shops.