Farmers seek to repair their own equipment

Apr 16, 2021  | 3 min  | Ep4635

Spring field work is in full swing this month as farmers look to prep the soil for planting. 

Inevitably some producers are going to run into breakdowns. 

What comes next is at the center of an on-going debate about who can do repairs to the equipment in use.

Peter Tubbs has our story.

Farmers throughout agriculture have grown frustrated with their inability to repair some of their farm equipment, simply because they are not allowed to diagnose error codes their tractors or combines generate. Manufacturers limit that information to trained service techs from dealerships.
Bills in Nebraska and eight other state legislatures are looking to allow farmers access to the data they need to fix their equipment themselves. Just as drivers can scan the error codes of their cars to diagnose problems, farmers would be able to triage problems in the field, rather than at the dealership.
Tom Brandt, R, Dist. 32, Nebraska Senate  13:00 “It's really interesting that dealerships by and large are, are sort of on the side of the farmers on this because a lot has changed for them the last 10 years too... This is not anti-dealer, this is not anti-OEM. This is just getting back to like, it was 20 years ago when you bought a piece of equipment, you own that piece of equipment.” 
Problems with a tractor - be them mechanical, electronic or software related - might put the tractor in limp mode, rendering it unable to do most work until a repair is completed.
Many technicians in Nebraska are an hour or more away from area farms. The cost of a service call, which includes drive time, can run several hundred dollars even if it’s just to scan a tractor's operating system.
Jeremey Davis runs a repair shop in Palmer, Nebraska. The percentage of repairs he is unable to complete without access to diagnostic equipment has risen to a third of his potential work.
Jeremey Davis, Firehouse Repair: “No matter what color of the piece of equipment is, they've all got all got electronic equipment that needs to be calibrated and looked at to figure out what's happening.”
The proposed measures would not allow for the bypassing of safety or environmental controls, nor would they reveal intellectual property. 
Jeremey Davis, Firehouse Repair: “We're not trying to cut dealers out. You know, there's enough work out there for everybody. You know, we just need a little help from the manufacturer to be able to fix things, be able to take care of the customers that they created in the first place.”
John Deere, Case IH and Kubota maintain that limiting access to the software systems and failure codes protects operator safety and ensures that equipment operates within its engineering parameters. 
For Market to Market, I’m Peter Tubbs.  @PeterTubbs
Grinnell Mutual Insurance