Lt. Gov. John Fetterman: Pennsylvania’s farmers need right-to-repair

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One of my favorite parts of the year is attending the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and it was great to go in-person this month after last year’s show was canceled. Meeting with farmers and those in the agriculture sector, and seeing the machines that help Pennsylvania’s farmers be the best in the country, is always an honor.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

Supporting rural Pennsylvania, including our commonwealth’s 53,000 farms, has always been one of my top priorities, especially when I can help our small farms thrive. That’s why for me, it’s long past time that the federal government enact broad right-to-repair laws in Pennsylvania and nationwide.

More: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman: We are one Pennsylvania, with shared values and needs

It’s common sense: farmers should have the right to repair the equipment they own, without having to deal with the equipment’s manufacturer. Period.

Right now, many large manufacturers of farm equipment force equipment owners to go to dealerships or authorized agents for repairs. Right-to-repair, on the other hand, gives owners the option to repair their own equipment or take it to their preferred third-party shops, instead of to the manufacturer.

In this Jan. 8, 2020 file photo visitors view antique tractors during the 104th Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa. The massive annual Pennsylvania Farm Show was canceled as an in-person event on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020 because of the pandemic, ending the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people converging on the Harrisburg complex in January.
In this Jan. 8, 2020 file photo visitors view antique tractors during the 104th Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa. The massive annual Pennsylvania Farm Show was canceled as an in-person event on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020 because of the pandemic, ending the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people converging on the Harrisburg complex in January.

For those who may not be in the agricultural industry and are unfamiliar with right-to-repair, here’s how it affects you. Say your iPhone breaks, but because of the warranty terms, you’re forced to take it directly to Apple for the repairs. Apple will charge you more money to fix the device, often with a longer wait time. Enacting a national right-to-repair law would make it so you can take the device to any electronics repair shop without voiding your warranty. Or, if you’re able to, you can just fix it yourself.

I strongly support this right for all of America’s products, from farming to tech. Just as large agricultural companies like John Deere shouldn't prevent farmers from fixing a device on their own, big tech companies like Apple and Microsoft shouldn’t either.

Forcing farmers to get their equipment fixed at dealer-owned facilities is just another example of the greed of big corporations. They want to nickel-and-dime people out of everything they can, even though it’s usually in someone’s best interest to get the items fixed elsewhere.

In an already tight and competitive market, this costs farmers thousands of dollars in repairs and lost time, waiting for a fix that they are usually more than capable of completing themselves if given the chance.

It’s already tough out there for Pennsylvania’s farmers. There’s no reason to make it tougher and more costly.

Without right-to-repair, manufacturers will continue to withhold information like blueprints and software that are used to diagnose problems, forcing the farmer to go to the dealer just to figure out what the issue is. It could be a month until someone from John Deere can see them, do a diagnostic, and then tell them what’s wrong. It could be an extremely simple fix, but because they can’t access the software, farmers are at the mercy of the manufacturer. Oh — and John Deere probably charges for this visit.

And farming is a time-sensitive business. If the equipment breaks down and a farmer can’t fix it, or can’t even diagnose the problem, then they’re losing out. They’ll miss timeframes for crop cultivation and get screwed out of part of the harvest they were counting on. The delays can be even higher in the most rural of areas, where farmers live further from authorized retailers and it takes even longer to get their items fixed.

We already know that the big manufacturers like John Deere have broken their previous promises to make it easier for farmers to repair items on their own. We have to enshrine right-to-repair in federal law to make this happen.

A bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate earlier this year that called for right-to-repair was cosponsored by members of both parties. This is one of those simple, commonsense, bipartisan issues, and we have to get it done.

When you buy something, it’s yours, period. If it breaks, you should be able to access all of the blueprints, software, and tools to fix it. That’s just common sense. Pennsylvania’s farmers — and everyone, really — deserve right-to-repair.

John Fetterman is the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. He is seeking the Democratic nomination in the May 17th primary for U.S. Senate.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman: Pennsylvania’s farmers need right-to-repair

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