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New Bill Focused on "Right to Repair" Introduced in U.S. Senate

On February 1, U.S. Senator John Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation (S. 3549) aimed at helping increase equipment repair access for farmers. Tester, a farmer himself, issued a press statement in which he expressed concerns for consolidation in the repair market and rapidly increasing costs and difficulties in seeking repairs to farm machinery and equipment. His bill proposes a range of measures to require equipment manufacturers to open access to hardware and software systems for open source repairs, and it calls for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oversee compliance with measures provided under the act.

This bill was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee for further consideration.

The issue of "right to repair" for farm machinery and equipment remains largely unresolved with solutions being sought at multiple levels. Last July, President Biden issued an Executive Order broadly seeking to address certain business practices in the economy that may be deemed anticompetitive or unfair, including restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment. In addition to federal actions, several "right to repair" bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Negotiations between equipment manufacturers and national farm organizations seeking to find common ground have carried on for several years without bearing much fruit.

S. 3549 would require equipment manufacturers to:

  • Make available any documentation, part, software, or tool required to diagnose, maintain, or repair their equipment.
  • Provide means to disable and re-enable an electronic security lock or other security-related function to effect diagnostics, repair, or maintenance.
  • Permit third party software to provide interoperability with other parts/tools, and to protect both the farmer’s data and equipment from hackers.
  • Ensure that when a manufacturer no longer produces documentation, parts, software, or tools for its equipment that the relevant copyrights and patents are placed in the public domain.
  • Ensure parts are replaceable using commonly available tools without causing damage to the equipment, or provide specialized tools to owners or independent providers on fair and reasonable terms.
  • Return data ownership to farmers. Manufacturers currently collect and sell all the data generated by farmers, and this data is the farmers’ “secret sauce” for how they conduct their business.

The legislation will also empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to treat any violations of the above provisions as an unfair or deceptive act. It also grants the FTC authority to promulgate regulations necessary to carry out this bill.

More below:

Bill Text