Colorado 1st State to Pass Farmer Right to Repair Law

Colorado has become the first state in the US to pass a “right to repair” law that ensures farmers can fix their tractors and combines by providing them with the necessary manuals, tools, parts, and software. The legislation is aimed at ensuring that farmers can make repairs quickly and efficiently, as delays can result in significant financial losses. In Colorado, where the high desert ranches and sweeping farms on the low-and-level plains are part of the state’s heritage, farmers had been increasingly frustrated by the lack of access to necessary tools and manuals for repairing their tractors and combines, which are essential to their livelihoods.

The “right to repair” campaign is picking up steam across the US and applies to a range of products, from iPhones to hospital ventilators. The campaign is focused on ensuring that independent mechanics and owners have access to tools and parts, which would allow them to repair their devices or machines more easily. At least 10 other states, including Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont, have introduced similar legislation, with discussions about a federal-level law also taking place.

The Colorado legislation advanced through long committee hearings, having been propelled forward mostly by Democrats even though a Republican lawmaker co-sponsored the bill. However, manufacturers and dealerships have raised concerns that providing farmers with more detailed information could lead to illegal modifications and environmental risks, while opponents also worry that compelling companies to share more detailed information necessary for repairs could expose proprietary information.

One of the main arguments for the legislation is that farmers have been waiting for up to three or four weeks for official servicers to arrive, which is causing delays that imperil their 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. For instance, Bill Midcap, whose son is a fifth-generation rancher on Colorado’s eastern plains, 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.”

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. They also pointed out that the legislation would save time and money for farmers and ranchers, thereby supporting the free market in repair.

At the signing ceremony, Democratic Governor Jared Polis, who was sitting in front of a hulking red tractor, 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 him 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 had 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.