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Right-to-repair becomes national agricultural issue Grant Evans gevans@havredailynews.com

Montana farmers and ranchers and independent repair shops are squaring off against massive corporations in a fight over who gets to repair agricultural equipement. For the last five years or so, it has become difficult — basically impossible — for ag producers to get their new equipment repaired except by technicians authorized by the manufacturer, generally at an authorized dealer, without voiding the warranty. This is a warranty for equipment that can cost half a million dollars or more. Manufacturers say that because of the technology used in modern ag equipment — with delicately precise, computerized systems and the necessary computerized diagnostics needed for repairs — only highly trained, certified technicians are allowed to work on their machinery and deal with computer issues. They also say tampering with ag equipment can cause problems beyond warranty issues, even leading to people being injured or dying after doing custom work on farm equipment. But ag producers and independent repair businesses say the availability of certified technicians — and the delay and extra expense getting machinery repaired by

them can cause — will cripple the ag industry in Montana. An issue of increasing concern Farm implement companies increasingly are limiting farmers’ options to maintain their own equipment by restricting the resources and choice of mechanics qualified to work on technologically advanced agricultural equipment. The issue on a variety of levels has been gaining increasing attention in the last decade. Legislation has been proposed in state governments to try to guarantee the right of owners — and independent repair shops — to repair their own equipment, with the legislation typically covering items ranging from automobiles to cellphones to farm tractors. A right to repair ballot initiative in Massachusetts, dealing primarily with vehicles, passed in 2012 and was amended this year. A bill was proposed in South Dakota’s legislature in 2014 to guarantee right-to-repair for items ranging from agricultural equipment to cellphones. It failed. A similar proposal again failed in 2019. Similar bills have been proposed in more than a dozen states across the country in recent years.

FARM & RANCH

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USDA launches AskUSDA to improve, streamlines customer experience Press release

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the official launch of the AskUSDA Contact Center program. The AskUSDA Contact Center will serve as the “one front door” for phone, chat, and web inquires, transforming how the public interacts with USDA and providing an enhanced experience for the public. Prior to the creation and implementation of AskUSDA, members of the public had to navigate dozens of phone numbers and had no chat function or online platform for selfservice, creating frustrations and inefficiencies. AskUSDA was created to make USDA more responsive to the public by providing a

single destination for phone, chat, and web inquiries. Whether it’s talking to a USDA representative via phone, chatting with a live agent on our website, or communicating with USDA via e-mail, the public will have streamlined access. The launch of AskUSDA delivers a centralized contact center that offers customer service and consistent information for the public. With over 29 agencies and offices, USDA’s mission impacts every single person in the U.S. and hundreds of millions around the globe. AskUSDA assures that farmers, researchers, travelers, parents, and more have efficient access to the information and resources they need.

AskUSDA is set up to handle common questions across programs that service a variety of audiences. For example, customers who may have basic questions about USDA’s nutrition services can be assisted across phone, e-mail, and web chat by trained AskUSDA representatives, and customers who may have complicated questions about loan programs can be quickly connected to agency experts. AskUSDA also hosts over five thousand articles for a self-service option to help with more common questions such as food safety inquiries or pet-travel guidance. Over the course of its pilot program, AskUSDA successfully assisted with over 93,000 citizen inquiries, and the AskUSDA

website resulted in over 1.4 million knowledge article page views. USDA looks forward to continuing to implement this enhanced best in class contact center across the Department. The public can contact AskUSDA by phone at 833-ONE-USDA — 833-663-8732 — with representatives available 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mountain time on weekdays. The website at https://ask.usda.gov is available 24 hours a day seven days a week and includes live chat agents available 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mountain Time on weekdays. Inquiries can also be sent via email at any time to askusda@usda.gov.

Repair: Harmon: Depreciation on agricultural equipment has doubled in recent years ■ Continued from page 3

Havre Daily News/ Kimberly Bolta A Big Bud 450 tractor being worked on before being sold to a farmer in Oregon rests in Big Equipment in Havre. A group was formed in 2013 — The Repair Association, officially the Digital Right to Repair Association — advocating for the right of people and independent

businesses to repair purchased items and equipments. Their positions are listed online at http://repair.org . Diagnostics is the forebearer of the issue.

substantially higher Independent shops, than they were before,” the old ma and pa Harmon said. shops of fixing trac Harmon said the tors, is long gone. companies have revolvThe older equiping passwords for their ment they can still systems, so even if fix.” someone is technician, T i l l e m a n if they leave the comEquipment Service pany they can’t fix or M a n a g e r La r r y Montana Farmers Union President Tim Schweitzer repair machinery for Bearden deals in customers they were Massey Ferguson working for because a n d C h a l l e n g e r, they don’t have the latest revolving passcompanies that have a long history in agriculture. Bearden has experienced the techno- word. logical advancements in ag equipment. “So, if you’re a farmer and you’re broke “If an independent contractor wants to down, you don’t have a number of people you warranty a repair he did, I can’t do that can call to repair it,” Harmon said. “You without the dealership actually doing it,” have to wait for that tech with that right Bearden said. “If you want the company to computer to access that piece of equipment.” pay for the warranty, you need to bring it Harmon gave an example: If someone back to the dealer. If I took my Ford to Jeep, bought a 2020 Peterbuilt truck in New York I wouldn’t expect it to be warrantied. I would and was headed to Seattle, “and you happen say (taking your equipment to a dealership) to break down in our little town of Havre, is the right way to do it. I don’t think it’s Montana, we can take a standard reader and monetary, I think it’s more to make sure that plug it into that truck and determine what the repairs are done correctly the first time.” the problem is, help the customer get it repaired and so forth, but all of these comLocal businesses: A need to help panies have switched. If your dealer is five local producers days out and their techs are busy at the time, Big Equipment owner Ron Harmon has there is nothing you can do, and then you pushed for legislation for farmers who need add to that, these large companies are forcright-to-repair to keep costs down. ing small companies out, like us. “I’ve contacted some congressional peo “The point is, if you have a John Deere ple and I think its an absolute travesty. The tractor or a Case IH what are you going to major companies, if you want to count do? It’s not like you have another indepenVersatile, there is four. The three primary dent dealer just down the road. They are all are AGCO, John Deere and Case IH.” owned by the same outfit,” Harmon said. Harmon said. “All of them, in my opinion, “Lastly, I’ve never, ever in my life and I have because of a lack of competition, what has been doing this for 40-some years, seen the happened here is that, starting about 2015, if depreciation on trade in, because they are so you look at the fine print, most contracts electronically messed up that we can’t keep that you will sign you do not own the rights them running. We’re looking at depreciation to the software. in the last few years (that’s) double than it “The rights are maintained by the under- used to be.” lying company, that allows them to do the following: If you break down in the field and State legislation proposed you are under warranty you are going to call Montana’s Farmer’s Union President the dealer you bought it from … but even Walter Schweitzer said that his organizathere, there are certain items that won’t be tion is pursuing legislation in Helena under warranty, and what I have noted they requiring manufacturers to allow farmers have increased the price of componentry access to diagnostic equipment.

I could’ve fixed it right away during the season, left it on the baler, then off to the races.

“It is a bit frustrating that we can’t troubleshoot our own equipment,” Schweitzer said. “It’s really the newer models and, for example, this summer, the tractor I had hooked to my baler would randomly quit without any real rhyme or reason. I kept trying different things, trying to figure out what it might be. “It did it more and more to the point where I had to disconnect it from the baler and hook up an older tractor because the needed to have the software and laptop hooked to the machine when it was quitting, and I didn’t have that,” he said. “The dealer

wouldn’t rent it to me. I was forced to have the tractor brought to them. They hooked it up to their laptop, and drove it around their yard until they got it to trigger.” Schweitzer said that the actual cost of repair was less than $1,000 dollars, but his bill, by the time hauling was factored in along with the troubleshooting, was $4,000. “If I could’ve had the laptop and hooked it up to my tractor and I could’ve identified the error I could’ve fixed it right away during the season, left it on the baler, then off to the races,” he said.

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Oilseed growers voting on checkoff for industry research and marketing Ballots due to Montana Department of Agriculture by Dec. 31

Press release HELENA — Montana oilseed growers have been sent a ballot in the mail proposing a 1 percent checkoff for canola, flaxseed, mustard, safflower, soybeans, and sunflower crops. If passed, the Montana Oilseed Advisory C o m m i t t e e w i l l a d v i s e t h e M o n ta n a Department of Agriculture on how to invest the funds for research, market develop-

ment, and education. “The continued growth of oilseed production in Montana is a testament to the i n d u s t r y ’s i m m e n s e p o t e n t i a l , ” M DA Director Ben Thomas said. “We have seen how investments made through other checkoff programs, like pulse and wheat a n d b a r l ey, h ave s u c c e s s f u l l y g i ve n Montana growers a competitive edge. I’m glad to see our oilseed producers are eager to advance their industry through research, market development, and education as well.” T h e M o n t a n a O i l s e e d Ad v i s o r y Committee was formed after MDA received a verified petition from 25 growers, and those present at listening sessions held thereafter unanimously expressed their

support for proceeding with the formation of the committee. The committee held its first meeting in June 2020 and received considerable input from other growers and stakeholders before deciding to propose a 1 percent assessment. Assessments are collected at the first point of sale and are voluntary. Growers may obtain an assessment refund by submitting a written request to MDA. Ballots were sent to growers and are due back to MDA by Dec. 31. Any current producer of canola, flaxseed, mustard, soybeans, safflower, or sunflower, that did not receive a ballot can contact MDA to request one by phone at 406-444-2402 or by email at agr@mt.gov.

`Canola production was forecast at a record high 217 million pounds for 2020, an increase of 9 percent from 2019, according to the most recent Agricultural Yield S u r vey c o n d u c t e d by t h e N a t i o n a l Agricultural Statistics Service. In 2018, Montana ranked second in the nation for production of canola, flaxseed, and safflower. Oilseed crop production in M o n ta n a i s ex p e c t e d to c o n t i n u e to increase. The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, people can visit http://www.agr.mt.gov .

Press release WASHINGTON —Registration is now open for the 97th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, the largest annual meeting and premiere event of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The two-day Forum will take place Feb. 18-19. Due to COVID-19 and current restrictions on large gatherings in the Washington area, USDA will hold the 2021 Forum virtually for the first time and registration will be free for the event. People can visit the Agricultural Outlook Forum website at https://www.usda.gov/ oce/ag-outlook-forum to register, follow

issues at #AgOutlook, USDA’s Twitter, Instag ram and Facebook. The 2021 Forum, themed “Building on Innovation: A Pathway to Resilience,” builds on USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda, launched earlier this year to align USDA’s resources, programs, and research toward the goal of increasing U.S. agricultural production by 40 percent while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050. The Forum will feature a panel of distinguished guest speakers and 30 breakout sessions developed by agencies across USDA. Topics covered include the food price outlook, innovations in agriculture, U.S. and

global agricultural trade developments, and frontiers in sustainability and conservation. In addition, the USDA chief economist will unveil the department’s latest outlook for U.S. commodity markets and trade, and discuss the U.S. farm income situation. The 2021 Forum’s program will be announced early this month. USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum began in 1923 to distribute and interpret national forecasts to farmers in the field. The goal was to provide the information developed through economic forecasting to farmers so they had the tools to read market signals and avoid producing beyond demand.

Since then, the event has developed into a unique platform where key stakeholders from the agricultural sector in the United States and around the world come together every year to discuss current and emerging topics and trends in the sector. More than 1,800 people attended the 2020 Forum. The Agricultural Outlook Forum, which is organized by USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist together with other USDA agencies, is independent of commercial interests and aims to facilitate information sharing among stakeholders and generate the transparency that supports well-functioning open markets.

USDA opens registration for the 2021 Agricultural Outlook forum, set for Feb. 18-19

www.havredailynews.com As technology in agriculture has boomed over the past 20 years, dealers say they are the only ones equipped to diagnose problems with diagnostic equipment, using technology and information unavailable to farmers or independent mechanics. John Deere’s website listed reasons for right-to-repair which range from unsafe operation, disabilities in capabilities and performance, illegal changes to emission controls, lowering the cost of resale and a disparate customer service. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who farms west of Big Sandy, is a strong proponent of right-to-repair. Tester has been working on providing the resources to small farmers to repair their own equipment, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Protecting the right of Montana farmers and ranchers to repair their own equipment is critical to keeping the operation running smoothly, and keeping input costs low,” Tester wrote in a letter to Federal Trade Commissioner Christine Wilson. “… Right now, everything from smartphones to tractors require diagnostic software and equipment to make repairs. However … a smartphone and a combine are not the same, and if we continue to lump the two together when developing right-to-repair policy, rural America will bear the brunt of the impact.” Farmers are grappling with fluctuating commodity prices, along with replacing equipment and paying for fuel, they say. Large agricultural companies are profiting on the struggle of farmers and independent mechanics to make repairs. Tester is not alone. Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is pushing for national legislation on right-to-repair. “Farmers should be able to repair their own equipment or choose between multiple repair shops,” Warren said in a blog post. “That’s why I strongly support a national right-to-repair law that empowers farmers to repair their equipment without going to an authorized agent.” Needing the right tools and training Hanson’s Implement in Cavalier, North Dakota, specializes in Case IH parts and equipment and opposes right-to-repair. Hanson’s Manager Keith Hartz said certified technicians are the only ones trained in the necessary diagnostics. “Well, the electrical is one thing. The things these days — say the controllers for combines, sprayer or quad-tracks or what it might be — every diagnosis comes up on the computers.” Hartz said. “There is an issue and you have to get that resolved. You’ll have to get ahold of us and we’ll have to diagnose it, and clear the code out.” Independent shops don’t have access to modern diagnostic equipment, which has essentially put a lot of stress on mechanics and farmers paying large premiums for certified technicians employed by the dealerships to work on machinery. “You have to be Case-certified with the dealership and you have to have a dealer code,” Hartz said. “I don’t know if there is a ny b l a c k m a r ke t s t u f f o u t t h e r e.

n Repair Continued on page 11

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Big Equipment employees work on a part for a tractor.

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Oilseed growers voting on checkoff for industry research and marketing Ballots due to Montana Department of Agriculture by Dec. 31

Press release HELENA — Montana oilseed growers have been sent a ballot in the mail proposing a 1 percent checkoff for canola, flaxseed, mustard, safflower, soybeans, and sunflower crops. If passed, the Montana Oilseed Advisory C o m m i t t e e w i l l a d v i s e t h e M o n ta n a Department of Agriculture on how to invest the funds for research, market develop-

ment, and education. “The continued growth of oilseed production in Montana is a testament to the i n d u s t r y ’s i m m e n s e p o t e n t i a l , ” M DA Director Ben Thomas said. “We have seen how investments made through other checkoff programs, like pulse and wheat a n d b a r l ey, h ave s u c c e s s f u l l y g i ve n Montana growers a competitive edge. I’m glad to see our oilseed producers are eager to advance their industry through research, market development, and education as well.” T h e M o n t a n a O i l s e e d Ad v i s o r y Committee was formed after MDA received a verified petition from 25 growers, and those present at listening sessions held thereafter unanimously expressed their

support for proceeding with the formation of the committee. The committee held its first meeting in June 2020 and received considerable input from other growers and stakeholders before deciding to propose a 1 percent assessment. Assessments are collected at the first point of sale and are voluntary. Growers may obtain an assessment refund by submitting a written request to MDA. Ballots were sent to growers and are due back to MDA by Dec. 31. Any current producer of canola, flaxseed, mustard, soybeans, safflower, or sunflower, that did not receive a ballot can contact MDA to request one by phone at 406-444-2402 or by email at agr@mt.gov.

`Canola production was forecast at a record high 217 million pounds for 2020, an increase of 9 percent from 2019, according to the most recent Agricultural Yield S u r vey c o n d u c t e d by t h e N a t i o n a l Agricultural Statistics Service. In 2018, Montana ranked second in the nation for production of canola, flaxseed, and safflower. Oilseed crop production in M o n ta n a i s ex p e c t e d to c o n t i n u e to increase. The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, people can visit http://www.agr.mt.gov .

Press release WASHINGTON —Registration is now open for the 97th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, the largest annual meeting and premiere event of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The two-day Forum will take place Feb. 18-19. Due to COVID-19 and current restrictions on large gatherings in the Washington area, USDA will hold the 2021 Forum virtually for the first time and registration will be free for the event. People can visit the Agricultural Outlook Forum website at https://www.usda.gov/ oce/ag-outlook-forum to register, follow

issues at #AgOutlook, USDA’s Twitter, Instag ram and Facebook. The 2021 Forum, themed “Building on Innovation: A Pathway to Resilience,” builds on USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda, launched earlier this year to align USDA’s resources, programs, and research toward the goal of increasing U.S. agricultural production by 40 percent while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050. The Forum will feature a panel of distinguished guest speakers and 30 breakout sessions developed by agencies across USDA. Topics covered include the food price outlook, innovations in agriculture, U.S. and

global agricultural trade developments, and frontiers in sustainability and conservation. In addition, the USDA chief economist will unveil the department’s latest outlook for U.S. commodity markets and trade, and discuss the U.S. farm income situation. The 2021 Forum’s program will be announced early this month. USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum began in 1923 to distribute and interpret national forecasts to farmers in the field. The goal was to provide the information developed through economic forecasting to farmers so they had the tools to read market signals and avoid producing beyond demand.

Since then, the event has developed into a unique platform where key stakeholders from the agricultural sector in the United States and around the world come together every year to discuss current and emerging topics and trends in the sector. More than 1,800 people attended the 2020 Forum. The Agricultural Outlook Forum, which is organized by USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist together with other USDA agencies, is independent of commercial interests and aims to facilitate information sharing among stakeholders and generate the transparency that supports well-functioning open markets.

USDA opens registration for the 2021 Agricultural Outlook forum, set for Feb. 18-19

www.havredailynews.com As technology in agriculture has boomed over the past 20 years, dealers say they are the only ones equipped to diagnose problems with diagnostic equipment, using technology and information unavailable to farmers or independent mechanics. John Deere’s website listed reasons for right-to-repair which range from unsafe operation, disabilities in capabilities and performance, illegal changes to emission controls, lowering the cost of resale and a disparate customer service. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who farms west of Big Sandy, is a strong proponent of right-to-repair. Tester has been working on providing the resources to small farmers to repair their own equipment, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Protecting the right of Montana farmers and ranchers to repair their own equipment is critical to keeping the operation running smoothly, and keeping input costs low,” Tester wrote in a letter to Federal Trade Commissioner Christine Wilson. “… Right now, everything from smartphones to tractors require diagnostic software and equipment to make repairs. However … a smartphone and a combine are not the same, and if we continue to lump the two together when developing right-to-repair policy, rural America will bear the brunt of the impact.” Farmers are grappling with fluctuating commodity prices, along with replacing equipment and paying for fuel, they say. Large agricultural companies are profiting on the struggle of farmers and independent mechanics to make repairs. Tester is not alone. Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is pushing for national legislation on right-to-repair. “Farmers should be able to repair their own equipment or choose between multiple repair shops,” Warren said in a blog post. “That’s why I strongly support a national right-to-repair law that empowers farmers to repair their equipment without going to an authorized agent.” Needing the right tools and training Hanson’s Implement in Cavalier, North Dakota, specializes in Case IH parts and equipment and opposes right-to-repair. Hanson’s Manager Keith Hartz said certified technicians are the only ones trained in the necessary diagnostics. “Well, the electrical is one thing. The things these days — say the controllers for combines, sprayer or quad-tracks or what it might be — every diagnosis comes up on the computers.” Hartz said. “There is an issue and you have to get that resolved. You’ll have to get ahold of us and we’ll have to diagnose it, and clear the code out.” Independent shops don’t have access to modern diagnostic equipment, which has essentially put a lot of stress on mechanics and farmers paying large premiums for certified technicians employed by the dealerships to work on machinery. “You have to be Case-certified with the dealership and you have to have a dealer code,” Hartz said. “I don’t know if there is a ny b l a c k m a r ke t s t u f f o u t t h e r e.

n Repair Continued on page 11

FARM & RANCH

Big Equipment employees work on a part for a tractor.

December 2020

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Havre Daily News/ Kimberly Bolta


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FARM & RANCH

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Right-to-repair becomes national agricultural issue Grant Evans gevans@havredailynews.com

Montana farmers and ranchers and independent repair shops are squaring off against massive corporations in a fight over who gets to repair agricultural equipement. For the last five years or so, it has become difficult — basically impossible — for ag producers to get their new equipment repaired except by technicians authorized by the manufacturer, generally at an authorized dealer, without voiding the warranty. This is a warranty for equipment that can cost half a million dollars or more. Manufacturers say that because of the technology used in modern ag equipment — with delicately precise, computerized systems and the necessary computerized diagnostics needed for repairs — only highly trained, certified technicians are allowed to work on their machinery and deal with computer issues. They also say tampering with ag equipment can cause problems beyond warranty issues, even leading to people being injured or dying after doing custom work on farm equipment. But ag producers and independent repair businesses say the availability of certified technicians — and the delay and extra expense getting machinery repaired by

them can cause — will cripple the ag industry in Montana. An issue of increasing concern Farm implement companies increasingly are limiting farmers’ options to maintain their own equipment by restricting the resources and choice of mechanics qualified to work on technologically advanced agricultural equipment. The issue on a variety of levels has been gaining increasing attention in the last decade. Legislation has been proposed in state governments to try to guarantee the right of owners — and independent repair shops — to repair their own equipment, with the legislation typically covering items ranging from automobiles to cellphones to farm tractors. A right to repair ballot initiative in Massachusetts, dealing primarily with vehicles, passed in 2012 and was amended this year. A bill was proposed in South Dakota’s legislature in 2014 to guarantee right-to-repair for items ranging from agricultural equipment to cellphones. It failed. A similar proposal again failed in 2019. Similar bills have been proposed in more than a dozen states across the country in recent years.

FARM & RANCH

www.havredailynews.com

December 2020

11

USDA launches AskUSDA to improve, streamlines customer experience Press release

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the official launch of the AskUSDA Contact Center program. The AskUSDA Contact Center will serve as the “one front door” for phone, chat, and web inquires, transforming how the public interacts with USDA and providing an enhanced experience for the public. Prior to the creation and implementation of AskUSDA, members of the public had to navigate dozens of phone numbers and had no chat function or online platform for selfservice, creating frustrations and inefficiencies. AskUSDA was created to make USDA more responsive to the public by providing a

single destination for phone, chat, and web inquiries. Whether it’s talking to a USDA representative via phone, chatting with a live agent on our website, or communicating with USDA via e-mail, the public will have streamlined access. The launch of AskUSDA delivers a centralized contact center that offers customer service and consistent information for the public. With over 29 agencies and offices, USDA’s mission impacts every single person in the U.S. and hundreds of millions around the globe. AskUSDA assures that farmers, researchers, travelers, parents, and more have efficient access to the information and resources they need.

AskUSDA is set up to handle common questions across programs that service a variety of audiences. For example, customers who may have basic questions about USDA’s nutrition services can be assisted across phone, e-mail, and web chat by trained AskUSDA representatives, and customers who may have complicated questions about loan programs can be quickly connected to agency experts. AskUSDA also hosts over five thousand articles for a self-service option to help with more common questions such as food safety inquiries or pet-travel guidance. Over the course of its pilot program, AskUSDA successfully assisted with over 93,000 citizen inquiries, and the AskUSDA

website resulted in over 1.4 million knowledge article page views. USDA looks forward to continuing to implement this enhanced best in class contact center across the Department. The public can contact AskUSDA by phone at 833-ONE-USDA — 833-663-8732 — with representatives available 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mountain time on weekdays. The website at https://ask.usda.gov is available 24 hours a day seven days a week and includes live chat agents available 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mountain Time on weekdays. Inquiries can also be sent via email at any time to askusda@usda.gov.

Repair: Harmon: Depreciation on agricultural equipment has doubled in recent years ■ Continued from page 3

Havre Daily News/ Kimberly Bolta A Big Bud 450 tractor being worked on before being sold to a farmer in Oregon rests in Big Equipment in Havre. A group was formed in 2013 — The Repair Association, officially the Digital Right to Repair Association — advocating for the right of people and independent

businesses to repair purchased items and equipments. Their positions are listed online at http://repair.org . Diagnostics is the forebearer of the issue.

substantially higher Independent shops, than they were before,” the old ma and pa Harmon said. shops of fixing trac Harmon said the tors, is long gone. companies have revolvThe older equiping passwords for their ment they can still systems, so even if fix.” someone is technician, T i l l e m a n if they leave the comEquipment Service pany they can’t fix or M a n a g e r La r r y Montana Farmers Union President Tim Schweitzer repair machinery for Bearden deals in customers they were Massey Ferguson working for because a n d C h a l l e n g e r, they don’t have the latest revolving passcompanies that have a long history in agriculture. Bearden has experienced the techno- word. logical advancements in ag equipment. “So, if you’re a farmer and you’re broke “If an independent contractor wants to down, you don’t have a number of people you warranty a repair he did, I can’t do that can call to repair it,” Harmon said. “You without the dealership actually doing it,” have to wait for that tech with that right Bearden said. “If you want the company to computer to access that piece of equipment.” pay for the warranty, you need to bring it Harmon gave an example: If someone back to the dealer. If I took my Ford to Jeep, bought a 2020 Peterbuilt truck in New York I wouldn’t expect it to be warrantied. I would and was headed to Seattle, “and you happen say (taking your equipment to a dealership) to break down in our little town of Havre, is the right way to do it. I don’t think it’s Montana, we can take a standard reader and monetary, I think it’s more to make sure that plug it into that truck and determine what the repairs are done correctly the first time.” the problem is, help the customer get it repaired and so forth, but all of these comLocal businesses: A need to help panies have switched. If your dealer is five local producers days out and their techs are busy at the time, Big Equipment owner Ron Harmon has there is nothing you can do, and then you pushed for legislation for farmers who need add to that, these large companies are forcright-to-repair to keep costs down. ing small companies out, like us. “I’ve contacted some congressional peo “The point is, if you have a John Deere ple and I think its an absolute travesty. The tractor or a Case IH what are you going to major companies, if you want to count do? It’s not like you have another indepenVersatile, there is four. The three primary dent dealer just down the road. They are all are AGCO, John Deere and Case IH.” owned by the same outfit,” Harmon said. Harmon said. “All of them, in my opinion, “Lastly, I’ve never, ever in my life and I have because of a lack of competition, what has been doing this for 40-some years, seen the happened here is that, starting about 2015, if depreciation on trade in, because they are so you look at the fine print, most contracts electronically messed up that we can’t keep that you will sign you do not own the rights them running. We’re looking at depreciation to the software. in the last few years (that’s) double than it “The rights are maintained by the under- used to be.” lying company, that allows them to do the following: If you break down in the field and State legislation proposed you are under warranty you are going to call Montana’s Farmer’s Union President the dealer you bought it from … but even Walter Schweitzer said that his organizathere, there are certain items that won’t be tion is pursuing legislation in Helena under warranty, and what I have noted they requiring manufacturers to allow farmers have increased the price of componentry access to diagnostic equipment.

I could’ve fixed it right away during the season, left it on the baler, then off to the races.

“It is a bit frustrating that we can’t troubleshoot our own equipment,” Schweitzer said. “It’s really the newer models and, for example, this summer, the tractor I had hooked to my baler would randomly quit without any real rhyme or reason. I kept trying different things, trying to figure out what it might be. “It did it more and more to the point where I had to disconnect it from the baler and hook up an older tractor because the needed to have the software and laptop hooked to the machine when it was quitting, and I didn’t have that,” he said. “The dealer

wouldn’t rent it to me. I was forced to have the tractor brought to them. They hooked it up to their laptop, and drove it around their yard until they got it to trigger.” Schweitzer said that the actual cost of repair was less than $1,000 dollars, but his bill, by the time hauling was factored in along with the troubleshooting, was $4,000. “If I could’ve had the laptop and hooked it up to my tractor and I could’ve identified the error I could’ve fixed it right away during the season, left it on the baler, then off to the races,” he said.

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12

Hi-Line

December 2020

FARM & RANCH

www.havredailynews.com

Who has the right to repair?


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