DENVER – Colorado is set to become the first state to ensure farmers can fix their own machines with the governor’s expected signing of a “right to repair” law Tuesday, which forces manufacturers to provide their customers with the necessary manuals, tools, parts and software.
Colorado, a state partly blanketed in ranches and farmland, took the lead on the issue following a nationwide outcry from farmers that manufacturers prevent them from fixing their own machines — from behemoth combines to thin tractors — when they break down. Farmers say it forces them to wait precious days for a servicer to arrive, a delay that could mean a hail storm decimates a crop or a farmer misses the ideal planting window.
Lawmakers in at least 10 other states have introduced similar legislation, including in Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas and Vermont.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill Tuesday afternoon, after the legislation advanced through long committee hearings, having been propelled forward mostly by Democrats even though a Republican lawmaker cosponsored the bill. The proposal left GOP lawmakers stuck between their farming constituents pleading for the ability to repair their equipment and the manufacturers who vehemently opposed it.
Manufacturers and dealerships raised concerns that providing tools and information to farmers would allow equipment owners to illegally crank up the horsepower and bypass emissions controls — putting operator safety and the environment at risk.
They also argued that the law would expose companies’ trade secrets.
The bill’s proponents acknowledged that the legislation could make it easier for operators to modify horsepower and emissions controls, but argued that farmers are already able to tinker with their machines and doing so would remain illegal.
The law falls into the broader “right to repair” campaign, which has picked up steam across the country and applies to a range of products, from iPhones to hospital ventilators. Independent mechanics and car owners have access to tools and parts due to a 2014 memorandum of understanding signed by the automotive industry.
Two years ago, President Joe Biden directed the Federal Trade Commission to beef up its right-to-repair enforcement.
Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.