American Farm Bureau and John Deere Sign Memorandum of Understanding Addressing Right to Repair

January 11, 2023 | By Jennifer Harrington

Picture of John Deere combine

The memorandum can be found here.

On January 8, 2023, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFB) and Deere & Company (John Deere) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) addressing what information will be made available for the upkeep and repair of John Deere agricultural equipment. The MOU is a commitment between John Deere and AFB regarding access to tools, manuals, and software produced by John Deere to farmers and independent repair facilities. Within the MOU is an outlined procedure on how authorized dealers of John Deere will address farmers’ concerns or questions with how the MOU applies to them.

Within the MOU, John Deere agrees to provide timely and electronic access to the manuals, software, and specialty tools “necessary for operation, maintenance, repair or upgrade” of its equipment to farmers and independent repair facilities. John Deere has also agreed that farmers will have access to the codes and data from an individual machine, and will allow that information to be transferred to an independent repair facility with the farmer’s permission. Farmers will be able to access information that is subject to a security function, and be able to re-set the security feature as long as it was disabled in the ordinary course of the repair or diagnosis. John Deere is obligated to make this information available “on fair and reasonable terms.” 

Fair and reasonable terms do not mean that the access will be free. John Deere has the express right to charge a fee or subscription for access to this information. ”Fair and reasonable” is defined within the document to mean “equitable terms for access.” Further, John Deere can withhold information if it believes disclosure would divulge trade secrets or proprietary information. Finally, John Deere is not obligated to give any information that would adjust power levels or “override safety feature or emission controls.”

If an authorized dealer of John Deere disagrees with a farmer over what must be made available, then the MOU outlines the procedure for addressing the issue.  First, there must be a good-faith discussion between the disagreeing parties. If no solution is found, then John Deere will be included in a second discussion. The AFB can be included in this discussion if the disagreement “pertains to the general interpretation or application of a core provision” of the MOU.

The AFB has agreed to encourage Farm Bureau organizations to refrain from “introducing, promoting, or supporting” any Right to Repair legislation at the state or federal level. If legislation or a regulation is enacted, then John Deere or AFB could withdraw from the MOU with 15 days’ written notice to the other party. “Right to repair”  laws or regulations are any that impose additional obligations to disclose information on John Deer.  AFB has also agreed to work with John Deer to educate farmers and independent repair facilities about resources available to repair and maintain agricultural equipment.

There is no end date for the agreement. AFB and John Deere will meet twice each year to discuss the MOU and whether updates are needed. If either party believes circumstances have changed enough to make the MOU unviable, then they will give written notice to the other party and a meeting will be held within 30 days to discuss the specifics and what could be done.

While MOUs can be important tools for documenting the mutual expectations of parties, they are not legally enforceable contracts. This means it is unlikely that a Court would intervene or enforce the MOU if a disagreement about the provisions occurs between the parties. It remains to be seen what impact this MOU will have on the future of legislation seeking to grant farmers the right to repair their equipment.