Colorado has become the first US state to pass a law that gives farmers the right to repair their own equipment. Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law on Tuesday, requiring manufacturers to provide access to the parts, software, tools, and documentation necessary for farmers or independent repair shops to fix agricultural equipment.
“This is a common-sense bipartisan bill to help people avoid unnecessary delays from equipment repairs,” Governor Polis says in a statement. “Farmers and ranchers can lose precious weeks and months when equipment repairs are stalled due to long turnaround times by manufacturers and dealers. This bill will change that.”
The move marks a step forward in the right-to-repair movement. It addresses a problem that farmers have long contended with as equipment manufacturers like John Deere have implemented software locks meant to discourage customers from repairing their own tractors. Although John Deere has made some headway in making its software, tools, and documentation more accessible, this bill will force the company to follow through on these promises.
In January, John Deere and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), an agricultural lobbying group, signed a memorandum of understanding that’s supposed to ensure farmers retain the right to repair their own equipment. However, the agreement also requires the AFBF to “refrain from introducing, promoting, or supporting federal or state ‘Right to Repair’ legislation” and states that either party can exit the agreement if any right to repair legislation passes. John Deere didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.
Colorado’s Consumer Right to Repair Agricultural Equipment (HB23-1011) law is set to go into effect on January 1st, 2024. It builds upon Colorado’s existing right-to-repair laws, which grant customers the ability to repair their own powered wheelchairs.
The law says it’s a “deceptive trade practice” if equipment manufacturers fail to comply with the law and adds that any “contractual provision” the manufacturer enters with a customer or independent repair shop to “remove or limit the manufacturer’s obligation to provide resources” is unenforceable. It also bans independent repair shops and equipment owners from modifying machines in ways that would impact safety or violate copyright, trademark, or patent laws.
“This is a huge win for farmers and ranchers in Colorado and across the country,” National Farmers Union (NFU) president Rob Larew says in a statement. “NFU has been pushing on Right to Repair issues for years and seeing a bill like this cross the finish line is a testament to the persistence of our members and the need for this issue to be addressed nationally.”
With Colorado moving to pass this legislation, we’re likely to see other states follow suit. Currently, 10 other states, including Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont, have agricultural repair bills of their own in the pipeline.