Position Statement: Right-to-Repair Legislation (Aftermarket Act)

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Background

Beginning with the auto manufacturers in 2012, outside groups have sought to open up diagnostic systems to independent repair services. Both federal and state legislation has been introduced that attempts to change copyright law and the availability of diagnostics, specialty tools, access to firmware and repair manuals for independent repair services. This paper primarily addresses issues revolving around state legislation.

The outside groups bringing this legislation forward are not part of the agriculture industry, and are attempting to introduce a solution seeking a problem. They began their crusade with legislation in Massachusetts. Shortly after passage of the legislation, automobile manufacturers agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Right to Repair advocates to avoid a patchwork of state laws across the country. Soon after, the Repair Association set its sights on the trucking industry, which quickly conceded and agreed to a substantially similar MOU.

In 2016, the Repair Association, along with counterparts such as the company ifixit, introduced legislation in Nebraska bringing the Right to Repair issue to bear on farm equipment. The bill introduced was the same bill passed by right to repair advocates in Massachusetts, in fact the language in the bill still referred to automobiles and had not been changed to reflect the intent to make it relate to farm equipment. The bill died in committee.

Right to Repair advocates have stated their intention to re-introduce legislation in Nebraska next year. They have also made it clear that other states could potentially see legislation introduced relating to farm equipment as well – particularly Kansas has been mentioned.

Position

WEDA opposes unnecessary, divisive legislation that will have unintended consequences for the agriculture industry. Right-to-repair legislation creates safety, warranty, and environmental concerns that will affect dealers and their customers.

Manufacturers should also have the right to protect their investment in intellectual property that propels innovation in the agricultural industry. Well established copyright protections should not be abandoned to allow unnecessary access to embedded code that harbors proprietary information of the manufacturer.

Rationale

As equipment has become more technologically advanced to make farmers and ranchers more competitive in a global economy, challenges to maintaining and servicing that equipment have grown as well. Equipment dealers across the country invest millions of dollars in personnel, training, and tools www.health-canada-pharmacy.com/gastrointestinal-tract.html every year to ensure they have the ability to serve their customer’s needs.

Legislators should not interfere with contractual rights to force manufacturers to deal with aftermarket actors directly. The traditional supply chain has been well established for generations, and legislation should not upend a market-driven approach to service and repair that has served the customer well for decades. Aftermarket actors, who do not invest in the training and personnel, want to achieve a competitive advantage by forcing manufacturers to deal directly with them, and avoid the traditional supply chain.

The reality is that equipment dealers and their customers’ fates are tied together. If the farmer or rancher doesn’t do well, neither will the dealer. Therefore, WEDA’s focus is educating stakeholders on this issue by pointing toward solutions where we can work together. There are three areas of policy to pursue that would have a significant positive impact: Transportation, Workforce Development, and Rural Broadband Expansion.

Transportation issues affect dealers’ responsiveness to their customers. Oversize permitting and divisible load requirements create regulatory burdens that impede the timeliness of moving equipment to and from a dealership. WEDA is working with others to evaluate and identify necessary changes.

The availability of highly trained technicians has significantly diminished in recent years. While demand for service and repairs increases, the shortage of technicians reduces the ability for dealers to respond to their customers. Workforce development legislation that improves available funding for technical training is a key issue. WEDA is working with federal, state and local officials to increase the number of skilled technicians available in the workforce.

Wireless connectivity in rural areas has not kept pace with the advancements in farm equipment technology. Many of the remote diagnostic capabilities on farm equipment are underutilized because of the lack of rural broadband. This is an area where manufacturers, equipment dealers, and farmers can work together to make broadband access available across the country to improve the ability of dealers to get their customers up and running quicker and more efficiently. Money through the Universal Service Fund needs to be allocated more efficiently to address this issue, and a major overhaul of the Telecom Act of 1995 must be made a priority for Congress.

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