Farmers seek 'right to repair'

By Hugh Christie on
27 January 2023

Tasmanian primary producers have seen success in their winter crops, with higher harvest yields and high commodity prices due to investments in infrastructure, research and development, and innovative farming practices.

However, there are still opportunities for productivity gains across the entire supply chain, including the shipping industry, as previously discussed in this column, and in the right to repair.

The "right to repair" is an issue that is becoming more important across the world, with even the simplest thing like the ability to get your smartphone repaired locally without losing the warranty or functionality.

Read More: New Livestock Health Monitoring Program Report now available

The right to repair means farmers can choose to have their equipment serviced or repaired and ensures access to spare parts and repairers by the dealer or an independent mechanic. Since the start of the pandemic, the Australian Bureau of Statistics lays bare confronting statics indicating farm input costs in Australia have increased by 28%.

Such increases are significant when considering repair costs five years ago were estimated to contribute $720 million to manufacturers' revenue.

Repair costs are almost as staggering as the purchase price for machinery. The Productivity Commission report on 'the right to repair' released in December 2021 noted that the high entry cost for farmers purchasing agriculture machinery and associated accessories was expensive. They found that nearly 70 per cent of all machine purchases cost over $100,000.

Read More: New Livestock Health Monitoring Program Report now available

As the Productivity Commission states, there is a limited number of authorised dealer networks of leading brands and the high cost of switching, and many owners are 'locked in' to their repair markets.

The "right to repair" addresses this by providing greater flexibility in servicing a diverse fleet and increasing the potential for competition for the purchase of machinery.

Importantly, this also provides flexibility when repairs are time critical, ensuring that the farmer can keep operating if the dealer mechanic isn't available and avoid potential cost impacts due to delays. This opportunity cost can be much greater than just the cost of not having a choice of mechanic.

Whilst many farmers may support the 'right to repair' due to high costs of servicing their equipment, it is also part of ensuring we are on an equal playing field globally as competitively, Australia is behind other parts of the world such as Europe and the United States, providing a competitive advantage to their farmers. One example of this contrast is in the United States. John Deere, one of the industry's largest manufacturers, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Farm Bureau to give farmers this right.

Importantly, I want to make it clear that we don't expect individual companies to make this move, as this also potentially impacts their competitiveness; instead, we support the National Farmers Federation's calls for the Australian Government to introduce obligations for the supply of parts for repair of farm machinery.

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