Vt. lawmakers consider right-to-repair bill

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 5:56 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - If you buy something and it breaks, should you have the right to fix it? The American Farm Bureau Federation last month announced an agreement with John Deere that allows owners to diagnose and fix their own equipment, but does the state need to get involved to nudge other companies to get on board?

Equipment breakdown might not have to slow farm operations like it once did under a proposed bill at the Statehouse.

“When you buy something, you have the right to fix it,” said Rep. Katherine Sims, D-Craftsbury, a co-sponsor of the Vermont Fair Repair Act. “Reform existing laws to require manufacturers of ag equipment to provide consumers and independent repair businesses equal access to all the things they need to fix stuff.”

She says farmers have raised concerns about the costs of repair and timelines to fix their equipment when they need it most. “You gotta make hay when the sun shines and if your baler breaks at that moment and there is only one tech authorized to fix that in the entire region, it really leaves you in a tough bind,” Sims said.

Ten other states are also looking at right-to-repair legislation for farm equipment. But some groups, including the Vermont Farm Bureau, see no need for the state to get involved. “I’d love to see this bill sit on the wall and let’s see how this works out,” said the bureau’s Joe Tisbert.

He says farms do need the ability to make their own repairs, but that the national farm bureau is already making strides in negotiations that have been going on for years. “We signed a memorandum of understanding with John Deere, which is a first of its kind.”

Tisbert says that the agreement would allow farmers or repair shops access to parts, software, and manuals to make their own repairs. He expects agreements with other manufacturers to follow suit “Our farmers need it and also the industry needs it,” he said.

He says the industry can solve this problem on its own.

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