H.81, a bill related to fair repair of agricultural and forestry equipment, is up for a vote in the House this week. We need you to contact your state reps TODAY and ask them to vote in favor of this bill that will improve farmers' and loggers' ability to repair their own equipment and/or access affordable repairs through local, independent repair shops. Find your House rep here.
What is the "right to repair"?
The Right to Repair is a national campaign focused on improving access to repair of all types of equipment across a range of industries from automotive, to agriculture, to consumer electronics and more.
H.81 is one of many similar bills being considered by state legislatures around the country seeking to improve farmers' access to the parts, tools, software, and diagnostic equipment they need to repair agricultural equipment.
Right now, some equipment manufacturers' monopolistic practices mean that farmers are often forced to wait days for a dealer or an authorized repair person to fix a broken machine. These wait times can be incredibly costly and cause a farmer or logger to miss often brief windows of favorable weather conditions.
Last week, Colorado became the first state in the nation to pass a law ensuring farmers' right to repair their equipment. Farmer organizations like the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), of which NOFA is a member, have supported the right to repair in the name of fairness to farmers.
Where does NOFA-VT stand?
NOFA-VT supports farmers' and loggers' right to repair their own equipment or otherwise have access to affordable, accessible, convenient repairs, whether that's through a dealer or an independent repair shop. Under the guise of safety or the protection of trade secrets, equipment manufacturers are using monopolistic practices that limit farmers' ability to fix equipment they have purchased, despite them very often having the skills to solve any mechanical problems.
Requiring farmers to go through a dealer for repairs is often more costly, and forcing farmers to wait many days for an authorized repair person to travel to the farm or woodlot can sometimes cause significant loss of income. Furthermore, it does not create the robust, competitive market for diagnostics, parts, and service that benefits farmers, loggers and supports rural economies. Instead, it leads to a monopoly, which benefits no one but the dealer themselves.
What are farmers saying about this bill?
We've listened to testimony provided by Vermont farmers to the House Agriculture, Food Resiliency & Forestry Committee, as well as the House Commerce & Economic Development Committee in recent weeks. Here is some of what they've had to say:
- "I believe that when you buy a tractor, you sign on freely, but after that there should be a free market opportunity to fix the tractor - and they do break. There's not a morning or afternoon in the harvest or fieldwork that goes by without a breakdown and need for repair. And when the repair is needed on a tractor, we as a team, with our incredible group of qualified mechanics, need to be able to fix it as soon as possible" - Todd Hardie, Thornhill Farm, Greensboro and NOFA-VT Board Member
- "As a hemp business owner and a cannabis business owner, I think this kind of legislation would send a really good message to the industry. There's lots of very specialized equipment in the hemp world and in the cannabis world, and most of it is manufactured in Washington State and California and it's very difficult to get that equipment repaired here in Vermont. …We've had issues where we might have a machine that's essential for harvest go down, and we would have to ship the machine all the way to Seattle, wait several weeks, have it shipped all the way back, and that just doesn't work when you're a farmer in the middle of harvest season. We need to get crops out of the field right away, and if there were more local repair services and they were allowed to work on that equipment, I think it would dramatically benefit the industry here in Vermont." - Sam Bellevance, Sunset Lake CBD
- "We're not looking to take any business away from dealerships, we're looking to take a load off their plates. Our tractor is currently down with a sensor issue… And the dealership just doesn't have the time - their techs are fully booked, they've got other priority jobs that are above us, and we do not have the ability to talk to that machine and tell it to start running correctly again." - Andy Calderwood, mechanic and tractor operator, Jasper Hill Farm and Andersonville Farm
Support the right to repair today by calling or emailing your House representative and voicing your support for H.81!
Thank you for supporting fair practices for the agricultural sector and beyond. Find your representative's contact information on the Vermont legislative directory.