Farmers would gain 'Right to Repair' tools under Maryland proposal

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Legislation in Maryland's Standard Assembly would offer farmers and other customers the right to correct complicated equipment without cumbersome constraints from manufacturers.

"Right to Mend" legislation is gaining steam nationally found in response to manufacturers' constraints on who can fix their products or utilize the specialized equipment necessary for those tweaks.

Maryland is one of greater than a dozen claims actively considering a law that would make repairs easier for consumers.

"Even simple fixes require specialized diagnostic equipment, replacement parts and gear," said Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D-Carroll and Howard counties). "Increasingly, electronic manufacturers are using this fact of our evolving technology to block usage of repair, rendering it difficult or impossible for consumers to repair their own products."

The legislation would require producers to talk about any parts, tools, updates or permissions needed to fix their products with independent repair shops or the product's owner.

Maryland Public Interest Study Group, or perhaps PIRG, is helping the legislation and held a information conference about it Thursday.

"To Repair" laws connect with personal electronics just like cellphones and gaming consoles, but also to farm tools and other machinery that at this point require digital fixes for maintenance which used to involve only mechanical elements.

"When one piece goes down, when there's a bit within that computer program that decides to break, it isn't a flat tire, it's not a broken pulley, it isn't a piece that we can go and purchase at the parts store and replace," said Colby Ferguson, the director of federal government and pr for the Maryland Farm Bureau.

Proponents of the bill argue that manufacturers have got used the increasing complexity of their tools to squeeze out independent protection shops and charge superior prices for maintenance that only they are able to provide. The limitations also can generate delays for farmers who will need urgent maintenance during critical circumstances of the year.

By controlling who may use specialized tools or couple new equipment to a machine's computerized program, suppliers have created a monopoly on fixes, Fry Hester said at Thursday's news meeting. She actually is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.

Brooks Long, who owns the Long Delite Farm found in Washington County, said he favors building repairs even more accessible to farmers.

"I would prefer to view it be an open process as opposed to being set up the way it is," he said.

Though issues with repairs largely haven't affected him so far, Long said the problem would factor into his wondering when he buys equipment later on.

"Down the road, if I upgrade apparatus, it's definitely a thing that would sway me some way, whether I would want to buy newer or older equipment," he said.

The Right to Repair bill in addition has been introduced in the House, where it really is sponsored by Del. Jessica Feldmark, D-Baltimore and Howard counties. Del. Kevin Hornberger, R-Cecil County, is also supporting the bill.

"When people own issues, whether that point is a good tractor or a good cellphone, and it breaks or stops performing, the owners will be able to get it repaired," Feldmark explained Thursday.

Opponents of the costs testified at a Senate committee hearing earlier this month that Right to Repair laws would jeopardize proprietary details and invite their equipment's safe practices features to come to be tampered with.

Tim Lambert, a good witness who said he'd worked in a number of functions for the Caterpillar supplier Carter Machinery, said buyers already receive usage of many software codes had a need to repair their equipment.

"We draw the brand, however, at providing usage of embedded codes that control the safety and federal EPA emissions compliance on our apparatus," Lambert said.

Both House and Senate versions of the proper to correct bill are awaiting votes in committees. The bill was introduced this past year but did not help to make it out of committee when the overall Assembly recessed early because of the pandemic.