Farmer Lobbying Group Accused Of Selling Out Farmers On Right To Repair Laws

from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

For the last few years, numerous states have been pushing so-called "right to repair" bills, which would make it easier for consumers to repair their own products and find replacement parts and tools. Not surprisingly, many tech companies have been working overtime to kill these efforts including Apple, which has tried to argue that Nebraska's right to repair bill would turn the state into a nefarious playground for hackers. Opposition also includes Sony and Microsoft, both of which enjoy a repair monopoly on their respective video game consoles.

Whether coming from Apple, Sony, or Microsoft, opposition to these bills usually focuses on the three (false) ideas: the bills will make users less safe, somehow "compromise" intellectual property, and open the door to cybersecurity theft.

Much of the current right to repair fracas began with the lowly tractor. More specifically, it started when John Deere decided to ban anything but "unauthorized repairs," inadvertently turning countless ordinary citizens into technology policy activists. A lengthy EULA the company required customers to sign back in 2016 forbids the lion-share of repair or modification of tractors customers thought they owned, simultaneously banning these consumers from suing over "crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software."

As ordinary farmers hack their way around these restrictions just to make a living (often utilizing Ukranian firmware), California recently joined the attempt to codify the right to repair into law. But that effort was derailed this week with the news that California's biggest farmer lobbying organization decided to sell out its constituents and support a watered down version of California's proposal.

Back in February, the Equipment Dealers Association promised a few concessions in a bid to stall legislation; including making repair manuals, diagnostic tech and other service tools widely available to farmers by 2021. They did not, however, address efforts to hamstring third-party part sales, the use of DRM to lock down devices, and continued to battle right to repair legislation in numerous states. The California Farm Bureau (which again is supposed to represent the farmers on this issue) this week struck a "concession" deal with the Equipment Dealers Association that isn't much of a concession.

In fact, said "new" concession closely mirrors things the industry had already voluntarily agreed to:

"It is beyond comprehension...why the California Farm Bureau—which should nominally have the interests of farmers in mind—reached an agreement with the Equipment Dealers Association last week that enshrines the concessions the Equipment Dealers Association already agreed to, without seemingly getting anything else out of it, and without even getting it to move up its 2021 timeline."

“This agreement is especially important because whenever we can resolve issues that concern us without passing laws, everybody wins,” Joani Woelfel, the CEO of the Far West Equipment Dealers Association, said in a statement.

Well, not everybody. The core problems here owners have grown angry about (DRM, intentionally making it harder for third-party repair shops to get parts) weren't really addressed, and the "compromise" not only isn't much of one, but it kills the California effort for effective right to repair laws. Needless to say, activists looking for more meaningful action see this as a massive sellout:

"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 agreement does not end monopolization of farm equipment repair,” Nathan Proctor, who is heading consumer rights group US PIRG’s right to repair efforts, told me in an email. “While it highlights how industry is feeling the pressure from Right to Repair, it also underscores that we need to do more if truly want the freedom to fix our property."

Unfortunately for hardware vendors and companies like John Deere, this isn't a fight that's going to be going away any time soon. The tighter companies like John Deere lock down their products with draconian DRM and annoying restrictions on what consumers can do, the more activists they create who previously may have never even gotten involved in such fights. As it stands, there are pushes for right to repair laws in nearly 20 states, and the tighter these companies squeeze, the more support for these initiatives they generate.


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  • icon
    firebird2110 (profile), 12 Sep 2018 @ 11:58am

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 12 Sep 2018 @ 12:06pm

    WTF?

    I don't recall voting for the Equipment Dealers Association...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Sep 2018 @ 12:18pm

    Could this be fraud?

    California Farm Bureau Federation

    Protecting family farms and ranches

    Providing support for 2.5 million jobs, $56 billion in crop value...

    California Farm Bureau Federation is a nonprofit organization of farmers and ranchers consisting of county Farm Bureaus from nearly every county in California, established in 1919 to work for the betterment of family farmers and ranchers in California. We are deeply committed to our mission, which is to improve the well-being and quality of life for California farmers and ranchers. We do this through advocacy, ongoing outreach, and economic services and products for those involved in agricultural production.

    A membership organization that likely charges some sort of dues, though I did not see that cost listed on their website

    The membership should ask for the return of their dues, or seriously consider suing them for fraud. The Federation claims to represent the farmers and ranchers but, at least in this instance they represented equipment manufacturers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2018 @ 5:53pm

      Re: Could this be fraud?

      They can ask for their dues back, but they will be as disappointed as people who buy things from the apple app store.

      The biggest problem with buying politicians is that they refuse to stay bought.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gwiz (profile), 12 Sep 2018 @ 12:22pm

    Typo?

    More specifically, it started when John Deere decided to ban anything but "unauthorized repairs,"...

     

    Shouldn't that be "authorized repairs"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Haywood (profile), 12 Sep 2018 @ 12:28pm

    As a farmer and a tech guy, I really hope this soon gets resolved, in a way that benefits the end user. While you can do workarounds, and use foreign software, it is never going to be a good. Personally my favorite way to resolve this is to starve them out. When Kubota and New Holland start out selling john Deere in significant numbers, the crap will cease. Hitting them in the pocketbook is the only language they understand. I'm betting this DRM stuff is already hurting resale prices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 12 Sep 2018 @ 1:09pm

    Resale

    By using CopyWrong laws, Deere certainly hopes to shut down the re-sale market, just like eBook publishers.
    Any sales that aren't "authorized" are a lost sale.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    you got chocolate in my peanut butter, 12 Sep 2018 @ 1:47pm

    "unauthorized repairs,"
    Really? That would be sweet!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2018 @ 1:49pm

    "It is beyond comprehension...why the California Farm Bureau—which should nominally have the interests of farmers in mind—reached an agreement with the Equipment Dealers Association last week that enshrines the concessions the Equipment Dealers Association already agreed to, without seemingly getting anything else out of it, and without even getting it to move up its 2021 timeline."

    BRIBES!
    BRIBES!
    BRIBES!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Sep 2018 @ 2:53pm

    'Well if you've found someone else to pay you...'

    Sounds like it's time for anyone paying dues or making donations to the California Farm Bureau to stop doing so, if not also demand a refund for any money they've sent in, as the Farm Bureau has apparently found someone else to lobby for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 12 Sep 2018 @ 7:50pm

    Self-interested politicians

    California Farm Bureau—which should nominally have the interests of farmers in mind—...

    See, there was your first mistake. When you elect a politician, even for an organization like this, they quickly become primarily interested in representing themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    John Smith, 12 Sep 2018 @ 9:31pm

    Of course, I Mikey were anythingesembling a decent writer or artist, rather than mediocrity-with-a-megaphone, he'd call this the "stupid patent tricks" department in honor of Letterman's "Stupid Pet Tricks," which had to bechanged to "Late Show Pet Tricks" when Letterman moved to CBS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 12 Sep 2018 @ 10:35pm

      Re:

      So there was literally nothing for you to complain about in the article? Never thought I'd live to see the day.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:56am

      Re:

      How sad is it when you can't actually refute anything in the article, but still feel you have to whine because it wasn't written the way you want it? How pathetic is your life when this is how you have to spend it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:41am

    The perilous ways of the double negative

    > it started when John Deere decided to ban anything but "unauthorized repairs,"

    This actually says that their own mechanics and dealers are not allowed to repair their products. Second and third parties are the only ones who may.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 8:27am

    Copyright is theft.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:44pm

    Increase unemployment

    Right to repair must be solidified on the side of the user. John Deere is only the beginning. This expands to just about every industry out there. All these independent and third-party resale and repair business are all at risk of being shut down if the manufacturers go on the offensive. One major blow would be auto service and repair shops. Places like Driver's Edge, City Garage, or Pep Boys could all be shut down if the manufacturers put something in their cars that forces us to take them to authorized dealerships for service. Imagine an oil filter that uses DRM. It is only sold by the manufacturer to authorized dealerships. They require an activation which only the dealerships have the means to do so.
    So it would cost the consumers significantly more for service and lead to a massive unemployment surge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 6:06pm

    This is nothing compared with the s**t that will hit the fan

    when farmers start hacking plant DNA...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Talmyr, 14 Sep 2018 @ 4:09am

      Re: This is nothing compared with the s**t that will hit the fan

      Monsanto will blow!

      Seriously, another reason to keep GM crops out of Europe (leaving aside whether they 'work' or not).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jeff, 18 Sep 2018 @ 7:27am

    equipment repair

    I will be going out of my way to not buy products with onerous repair policies. Especially from American companies. I will never buy a John Deere product of any kind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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