Hovis and McCreery: Right to Repair is an issue all Missourians should be able to agree on | Other Opinions
When something breaks, we should fix it. When we own something, we should be able to do what we want with it. And we should support the farmers who produce the food that goes on our tables. These are things that all Missourians can understand.
Those commonsense ideas are the basis of the Agriculture Right to Repair bills that are currently making their way through Jefferson City, House Bill 2402 and Senate Bill 1086. As a Republican state representative from rural Cape Girardeau and a Democratic state representative from suburban Olivette, we are working together to give farmers the tools they need to fix their broken tractors and combines.
Rep. Hovis grew up on a family farm, where the family still raises cattle and hay. This is his story:
We used to repair everything — it wasn’t a big deal when something broke down because we could take it apart, repair it and put it back together.
That’s not the case with modern agricultural equipment. When a draft control in my John Deere tractor went bad, my first instinct was to replace the part once I found the issue. It should have been a simple fix, but newer tractors such as mine require software tools to diagnose problems and authorize repairs. Manufacturers and dealers won’t sell us all of the tools we need to do the job, so I was stuck calling up the John Deere technician and paying him a hefty fee to come out and plug in his special laptop for 15 minutes. My only other choice was to haul my tractor into the dealership for the tech to do the same job.
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Dealership consolidation is further reducing my repair choices. Where I used to be able to choose from a number of locally owned dealerships, many have been bought up or incorporated into larger chain networks. A report from U.S. Pirg and Environment Missouri found that there is one John Deere chain for every 13,571 Missouri farms and every 3.9 million acres of Missouri farmland.
When I have a problem with my pickup, I can try to make the repair myself, take it to the independent mechanic on the corner or drive it into the dealership. We have repair choice when it comes to cars and trucks because a 2012 auto Right to Repair law passed in Massachusetts. Once that law passed, auto manufacturers came to the table and signed a memorandum of understanding that essentially made the Massachusetts law the law of the land.
No tractor Right to Repair law exists, nor does any farm equipment memorandum of understanding. By passing the Agricultural Right to Repair bills introduced by Missouri Sen. Mike Cierpiot (R-Lee’s Summit) and I, we can change that.
Rep. McCreery may not be a farmer, but a number of his constituents are. Here’s her story:
When I talk to real Missouri farmers, I hear different iterations of Rep. Hovis’s story. Folks are getting stranded in the field with broken equipment and without all of the repair materials they need to fix their stuff.
I understand the importance of having the freedom to fix the stuff you own. My husband, a mechanical engineer by training, is a fixer at heart. He’s even fixed a tractor or two in his day, including a pre-software John Deere from 1986 for which he was able to find all of the schematics, parts and manuals that he needed. He had less luck with his Apple MacBook Air — no schematics or diagnostic materials were available, and it required a special screwdriver just to open the computer up. It may sound curmudgeonly, but they sure don’t make things like they used to.
As my husband discovered with his laptop, the problem of repair restrictions extends beyond just farm equipment — home appliances, consumer devices, and even medical and military equipment are affected. It’s a broader problem that needs to be fixed down the road. But we have an opportunity to help farmers right now. That’s why I’ve teamed up with Rep. Hovis and am fully committed to passing Agricultural Right to Repair.
Whether your county is rural, urban or suburban; whether you vote red or blue or anywhere in between; common sense reforms like Right to Repair are ones that all Missourians should be able to unite behind. Our colleagues in Jefferson City should join us in supporting this bill to get farmers the repair relief they deserve.
Barry Hovis is a Republican state representative for Cape Girardeau, District 146. Tracy McCreery is a Democratic state representative for St. Louis County, District 88.