The Biden administration aims to drive more competition in the U.S. farm equipment industry by pushing tractor makers to make it easier for farmers and independent mechanics to fix machinery.
The move, part of a wide-ranging executive order outlined Friday by the White House, targets the roughly $15-billion-a-year farm machinery industry, which over the past decade has loaded tractors and combines with sensors and software aimed at speeding planting and boosting harvests.
Some farmers have said the high-tech equipment is increasing their costs. Fixing and maintaining modern tractors and harvesting combines, which can cost $500,000 or more, has increasingly required farmers to call in technicians from dealerships to make repairs that some farmers said they could handle themselves, if they could get the software and diagnostic tools that manufacturers require to work on tractor systems.
“All we’re looking for is the opportunity, as the owner, to fix what we own,” said Tom Brandt, who farms near Plymouth, Neb., and serves in the state legislature. Earlier this year, Mr. Brandt introduced a state bill that would require tractor suppliers to make available software and tools to diagnose and fix farm equipment.
President Biden’s executive order Friday directed the Federal Trade Commission to curb farm equipment makers’ restrictions on repairs performed by independent mechanics or farmers themselves. Agricultural equipment is part of the order’s broader focus on repairs, calling for new rules against what the White House called manufacturers’ anticompetitive restrictions on fixing cellphones and other devices and equipment.