Right to Repair is an international issue hitting home right here on Montana family farms. One local farmer still can’t get his equipment fixed after 3 weeks in the shop. Now he’s dealing with a backlog on his farm while a tractor problem for others could cost them an entire harvest season.
Walter Schweitzer, President of the Montana Farmers Union, can't fix his own tractor troubles. His John Deere has been in the shop for 3 weeks and is still there today. He says the process of going back and forth with the dealer isn't getting easier or cheaper, "It's frustrating and it shouldn't be that way."
Ken Wheeler, CEO of Frontline Ag Solutions, does sell John Deere diagnostic software to his customers -but farmers must have their own laptop, sign a license agreement form, attend training sessions, and pay a monthly licensing fee, "You'll do the stuff, and when you walk out of the building, you'll have the software and know to run it."
Walt says he's interested, but still on the fence waiting for a request form, "If I was a bigger farmer I would own it."
A tractor in the shop puts him behind on what needs to get done on his farm.
"I need it to load out hay because it's my only loader tractor."
The software to fix Walt's problem himself would cost close to $8,000 because it's sold to cover every John Deere tractor, not just his own.
"Their parts people still say you can't get it. I think if they would have rented this software to me I could have done the troubleshooting in the field and then they could have read their error codes and we would have been there 3 weeks ago. We would have gotten there. But the problem was that his service department, they were struggling to get it to fail. Well, it's hard when you're in the shop and you're not in the field working it," said Schweitzer.
Walt was forced to bring his big green machine in to the dealer so they could eventually diagnose and fix a fluctuating fuel pressure issue.
Wheeler says renting isn't an option and the software versions aren’t sold separately, "If you're testing a GR unit, the main computer of your tractor, that main computer might work on 3, 4, 5, 6 tractors.”
Walt hopes his tractor will be delivered back to his farm in Geyser on Wednesday, and he’s nervous for the bill.
Montana Family Farms is sponsored by the Montana Farmers Union. Each story focuses on Walter Schweitzer’s life on the farm and a bigger impact on the industry across the Treasure State and beyond.