The March 9th meeting of the Colorado Senate’s Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee had a familiar feel to it. As the Committee moved quickly through some minor business and appointments and turned to consider HB23-1011, a right to repair bill covering agricultural equipment, a familiar dynamic began to exert itself in the Senate hearing room.
There were the familiar voices speaking in favor of the right to repair bill – Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit is a fixture of these hearings. There was, as well, impassioned testimonies from Colorado farmers like Harrison Topp of Topp Fruit (this guy), a first generation farmer in Hotchkiss, Colorado, who cited the difficulty of obtaining parts and technicians to do repairs as a major obstacle to small scale farmers and ranchers.
“We are becoming captive to machinery dealers,” he said.
And there was Kyler Brown, a farmer who testified to the Senate committee from the cab of a Case IH tractor that had a lift pump fail shortly after harvest. Brown had to wait 2 1/2 weeks to get the pump and a sensor on the tractor repaired and said he was just lucky that the part didn’t fail during his harvest. “I pay about $3,000 a day in labor during harvest season,” Brown said. “I can’t afford to have a tractor down.”
(Full disclosure: Paul Roberts, who co-authored this post, also testified in favor of the legislation, speaking as the founder of SecuRepairs.org, a pro-repair group.)
Deja vu all over again?
But that testimony was followed by a long and predictable list of opponents to the legislation: lawyers and lobbyists for agricultural and manufacturing industry groups and owners of authorized equipment dealers floating gas-lighting denials that any obstacles to repair existed, to pseudo-legal challenges on intellectual property or environmental grounds.
Those comments found a seemingly sympathetic audience from lawmakers on the panel. Senator Cleave Simpson, a farmer and rancher, had nothing but praise for his local John Deere dealership and said he, personally, hadn’t experienced any delays in getting his equipment serviced. (Note to Cleave: you’re a Senator.)