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BALTIMORE — Many farm equipment manufacturers prevent farmers from accessing the software tools they need to fix their modern tractors. That forces farmers to turn to corporate-authorized dealers for many problems, which can lead to high repair bills and delays that can put their crops—and their livelihoods—at risk. While farmers have always relied on local dealerships for help, more and more those dealerships have been bought up by large chain networks, further reducing competition and exacerbating the problems farmers already face due to repair restrictions.
A new Maryland PIRG Foundation report, “Deere in the Headlights II,” demonstrates the extent of the dealership consolidation problem, looks at the specific impacts on Maryland farmers, and shows how Right to Repair reforms could dramatically increase farmers' repair choices.
Our research found that John Deere, which controls 53% of the country’s large tractor market, has more consolidated and larger chains than competitors Case IH, AGCO and Kubota. Eighty-two percent of Deere’s 1,357 agricultural equipment dealership locations are a part of a large chain with seven or more sites. In Maryland, there is one John Deere chain for every 4,133 farms and every 667 acres of farmland.
Fig. 1: 82% of Deere dealership locations are part of large chains with 7 or more sites, compared to 37% for Case IH, 22% for AGCO and 5.8% for Kubota.
“Between repair restrictions and dealership consolidation, farmers are feeling hog-tied,” said Maryland PIRG Foundation Advocate Rishi Shah. “Farmers deserve to be able to choose between fixing their own tractors, hiring an independent mechanic or turning to competing dealerships nearby. Instead, many have only one dealership chain within a hundred miles that services their brand of equipment. Finding repair options shouldn’t be like searching for a needle in a haystack.”
Fig. 2: Significant areas of Maryland are not close enough to a John Deere dealership to get access to timely repair if their equipment breaks.
“With fewer and fewer technicians available in the state every year, the downtime for equipment repair continues to grow during the busy planting and harvest season,” said Maryland Farm Bureau Director of Government and Public Relations Colby Ferguson. “Farmers just want the ability to repair their equipment when it breaks or at least hire a third party repair expert when the dealer isn’t available.”
Many farmers including Ferguson are calling for Right to Repair reforms, which would provide farmers and independent mechanics with the software and other materials required to repair modern tractors. In Maryland, Del. Kevin Hornberger has introduced HB 538, which would grant state’s farmers the Right to Repair their equipment.
“It’s time for Maryland to stand up for family farmers and independent repair shops,” said Del. Hornberger. “Right to repair puts the power back in the hands of consumers and protects market choice. More options in the agricultural equipment industry will ensure farmers can get the best price when investing in capital repairs. As an essential part of our State’s food supply, farmers need more ways to reduce operating costs. This legislation offers one such way, and is supported by numerous farms and rural advocates across Maryland.”
Maryland PIRG Foundation is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.
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