It’s 2 a.m. and Clint Stoutenburg has been planting sugar beets on his family farm in eastern lower Michigan for 18 hours.
But a transmission code lights up and locks his John Deere planter at a fixed speed. Stoutenburg doesn’t know how to fix the software problem and the dealership isn’t open.
It’s supposed to rain in an hour. He needs to get the seeds in the ground.
Moments like these, Stoutenburg said, make him feel like he’s handcuffed because he’s unable to access the resources necessary to fix these problems.
“The times have changed so rapidly that you can’t just put a piece of tape over the sensor and get by,” he said. “It’s holding us back. I mean, I bought the machine. I paid for the technology.”
For years, farmers and ranchers have argued they should have the right to fix their own equipment — and not be solely reliant on authorized dealerships.
The right-to-repair movement has resulted in the introduction of several bills across the country. They seek to require equipment manufacturers to hand over software, codes and tools to farmers and independent service technicians, enabling them to fix their own equipment.
Yet, so far, only one state has succeeded.
In April, Colorado passed the nation’s first farmer’s right-to-repair law, which will go into effect at the start of 2024. Four other states in the Midwest introduced similar legislation, but bills in Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota all failed to make it out of committee. A bill in Michigan remains active as the state’s legislature heads into its