Technology’s reach intensifies and garners attention

Dave Bergmeier

Since World War II farmers and ranchers have watched unprecedented advances in technology from on-the-farm equipment to seed technology and into livestock practices.

The companies that have invested billions of dollars into the research understandably want protection. In recent months farmers and ranchers have also voiced concern that producers should also have the right to repair their own equipment. Of particular concern was that the technology could go as far as to shut down the machine until the certified repairman could fix it.

President Joe Biden, among his recent executive actions, encouraged the Federal Trade Commission to take action to strengthen the consumers’ right to repair their own equipment.

In a story written by Web Editor Shauna Rumbaugh, she noted Biden’s order was to encourage the FTC to exercise its regulatory authority regarding “unfair anticompetitive restrictions on third-party or self-repair of items, such as restrictions imposed by powerful manufactures that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.”

John Deere has stated it supports a consumer’s right to safely maintain, diagnose and repair their own equipment and provides tools, parts, information guides, training videos and manuals needed for farmers to work on their machines, including remote access for technicians to provide long-distance support. The company does not support the right to modify embedded software due to the risks associated with the safe operation of equipment, emissions compliance and engine performance.

Farm organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union, which can disagree on how executive actions are not only enforced but their original intent, have both applauded Biden’s action because they believe farmers need to have the ability to perform cost-effective work on their own equipment as part of their maintenance program and to control operational costs.

The FTC in late July approved by a unanimous vote to enforce laws around the Right to Repair to allow consumers to fix their own equipment.

In other technology news, recently the CME Group announced it will not reopen its physical trading pits that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CME Group is the world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace.

In a letter to the editor, Bruce Shultz, Raynesford, Montana, noted that selling with a live person does have merit rather than having fund traders setting their computers with algorithms to constantly buy and sell commodities.

Technology remains an ever-present force and opportunity to improve the efficiencies, but farmers and ranchers also have to feel comfortable there is adequate oversight. Many feel, as we’ve watched and listened to recent concerns expressed, they have fewer suppliers and market outlet opportunities as a result of consolidation.

All of the above discussion points have commanded attention from the farm and commodity organizations, the president and Congress. All are worthy of continued discussion.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].