NATIONAL NEWS

Colorado becomes 1st to pass ‘right to repair’ for farmers

Apr 25, 2023, 9:51 AM | Updated: 2:30 pm

FILE - Visitors stand on the west steps of the Colorado state Capitol, Sunday, April 23, 2023, in D...

FILE - Visitors stand on the west steps of the Colorado state Capitol, Sunday, April 23, 2023, in Denver. Colorado is set to become the first state to sign a "right to repair" law allowing farmers to fix their own equipment with a bill signing Tuesday afternoon, April 25, by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado. The law will force manufacturers to provide the necessary manuals, tools, parts and software to farmers, so they can fix their own machines. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER (AP) — Sitting in front of a hulking red tractor, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill Tuesday making Colorado the first state to ensure farmers can fix their own tractors and combines with a “right to repair” law — which compels manufacturers to provide the necessary manuals, tools, parts and software.

Colorado, home to high desert ranches and sweeping farms on the low-and-level plains, took the lead on the issue following a nationwide outcry from farmers that manufacturers, such as John Deere, blocked them from making fixes and forced them to wait precious days for an official servicer to arrive — waits that imperiled profits.

While their increasingly high-tech tractors or combines sit impotent, a hailstorm could decimate a crop or a farmer could miss the ideal planting window, farmers said.

“Farmers have had to wait three or four weeks to get repairs done to equipment when they can do repairs themselves. That’s just unfathomable,” said Bill Midcap, whose son is a fifth-generation rancher on Colorado’s eastern plains.

Lawmakers in at least 10 other states have introduced similar legislation, including in Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas and Vermont.

Colorado has taken the lead, but Democratic Rep. Brianna Titone, the bill’s sponsor, and Dan Waldvogle, director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said it’s a potential launch pad for other states and even at the federal level where discussions about similar legislation are already underway.

At the signing ceremony Tuesday afternoon, under a light drizzle of rain, Polis said: “This bill will save farmers and ranchers time and money and support the free market in repair” before exclaiming, “first in the nation!”

Behind the governor and arrayed farmers and lawmakers sat a red Steiger 370 tractor owned by a farmer named Danny Wood. Wood’s tractor has flown an American flag reading “Farmers First,” and it been one of two of his machines to break down, requiring long waits before servicers arrived to enter a few lines of computer code or make a fix Wood could have made himself.

Polis and Titone climbed inside the tractor for a photo as the ceremony ended.

Polis signed the bill after the legislation advanced through long committee hearings, having been propelled forward mostly by Democrats even though a Republican lawmaker co-sponsored 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. Republican Rep. Richard Holtorf, a farmer himself, further worried that it would push dealerships out of business, especially in rural parts of the state.

The bill’s proponents acknowledged that the legislation could make it easier for operators to modify horsepower and emissions controls. But they 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 because of 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.

National News

Associated Press

2 men convicted in 2021 armed standoff on Massachusetts highway

BOSTON (AP) — Two men have been convicted for their role in an armed standoff on a busy Massachusetts highway in 2021 that lasted more than eight hours and caused traffic delays during a busy Fourth of July weekend. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced Friday that Jamhal Tavon Sanders Latimer and Steven Anthony Perez […]

37 minutes ago

Associated Press

Maine doctor convicted on multiple counts of illegally distributing opioids

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine doctor who runs an addiction treatment center has been convicted on multiple counts of illegally distributing opioids including oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl. Dr. Merideth Norris, 53, of Kennebunk, Maine, was found guilty in federal court Friday of distributing the opioids at her practice. According to court documents, she did […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Teen charged with murder in death of 7-year-old Chicago boy struck by random gunfire

CHICAGO (AP) — A teenager was charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old Chicago boy who was not the intended target of gunfire earlier in the week, police said. “There is no excuse for this violence,” police Supt. Larry Snelling said Friday night. Jai’mani Amir Rivera was killed Tuesday outside an apartment […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

3 Alabama men die after becoming distressed while swimming at Florida beach

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Three Alabama men have died from likely drowning after becoming distressed while swimming at a Florida Panhandle beach, authorities said Saturday morning. The young men had traveled to the Panama City Beach area Friday evening, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. The sheriff’s office received […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

New Mexico heavy rain and flash flooding prompt mandatory evacuations

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Heavy rain and flash flood warnings in New Mexico prompted officials to order some mandatory evacuations, with shelters set up for displaced residents. The National Weather Service office announced a flash flood emergency on Friday night through early Saturday. The impacted areas included the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Ex-CEO of Nevada-based health care company Ontrak convicted of $12.5 million insider trading scheme

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former CEO and chairman of Ontrak, a publicly traded health care company based in Nevada, was found guilty Friday of a multimillion-dollar insider trading scheme. A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Terren Scott Peizer, a resident of Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California, of one count of securities fraud […]

15 hours ago

Colorado becomes 1st to pass ‘right to repair’ for farmers