Michigan Farmers Call for ‘Right-to-Repair’ Legislation

A tractor about to head into a field. (Getty Images/Michael Lofenfeld Photography)

By Kyle Kaminski

August 24, 2023

Michigan farmers want state lawmakers to go up to bat against corporate monopolies that are making it overly difficult—and expensive—to repair their own equipment. 

MICHIGAN—Manufacturers of agricultural equipment don’t always make it easy for farmers to complete their own repairs. The diagnostic software and parts used in those closed systems are often restricted—and that’s by an intentional, monopolistic design.  

Controlling the market on repairs (in addition to sales) can help larger corporations rake in higher profit margins, while simultaneously inconveniencing farmers and stifling competition from smaller businesses that could offer the repairs at a more reasonable cost, closer to home.

And for decades, farmers have argued that the restrictions have only prevented timely repairs and raised costs, as well as harmed the environment and threatened local agriculture. 

This year, Michigan lawmakers are taking a stand against the practice with a new bill that seeks to ensure farmers and ranchers in Michigan have the right to decide who fixes their stuff.

House Bill 4673—otherwise known as the Michigan Agricultural Equipment Repair Act—would require all agricultural equipment manufacturers in Michigan to provide tools and parts at a fair price, as well as offer diagnostic information to farmers and independent repair shops. 

The stated goal: Ensure that Michigan’s farmers can remain competitive against closed systems, ultimately allowing them to repair their own equipment at a more affordable price.

The legislation was introduced in May by state Rep. Reggie Miller (D-Van Buren Township) and has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, where it could resurface later this fall.

Michigan farmers have largely supported the concept because it could save them a small fortune on simple fixes—as well as the hours-long drives to dealer-authorized repair centers. 

“As a fourth-generation family farmer, I’ve seen up close how wealthy corporations unfairly raise prices on products and equipment I need to grow food,” Bob Thompson, president of the Michigan Farmers Union said in a statement. “The state legislature has an enormous opportunity to deliver for independent farmers, ranchers, and rural farming communities.”

The Michigan Farmers Union—and 30 other agricultural organizations and farmers—signed a joint letter to lawmakers this week urging them to pass the legislation before the end of the year.

Jennifer Silveri, the co-executive director of Michigan Food and Farming Systems, said the changes are “imperative” to the well-being of all farms, regardless of their size or scale.

“Farmers cannot afford to waste time, energy, and exorbitant amounts of money hauling their tractors hundreds of miles to dealer repair shops during the harvest season,” she said. “Let farmers and local mechanics fix their equipment close to home and at much lower prices so they can spend their time, energy, and money doing their job feeding our communities.”

A Progress Michigan poll found that 81% of Michigan voters support “right-to-repair” legislation. 

In related news…

In March, Attorney General Dana Nessel called on Congress to further protect farmers, as well as other consumers in Michigan by passing more expansive “right-to-repair” legislation at the federal level that would also include repairs for automobiles and other digital electronics. 

Michigan Farmers Call for ‘Right-to-Repair’ Legislation

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, outside of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office in Flint. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

“The monopoly on repairs hurts consumers,” Nessel said.

In a letter signed by attorneys general from 27 other states and territories, Nessel called for the passage of three pieces of proposed federal legislation that were introduced but failed to advance within the last year: The Fair Repair Act; the SMART Act; and the REPAIR Act.  

The legislation would also reform copyright laws, raising the bar for what it takes for manufacturers to file patent-related lawsuits against companies that produce parts for repairs.

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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