HELENA — The right to repair farm equipment had its day in the sun Thursday in a Senate committee.
Senate Bill 273 would make agricultural equipment manufacturers sell the tools and software necessary for repairs.
Sen. Mark Sweeney, D-Philipsburg, is the bill’s sponsor.
“We need to make sure that farmers and ranchers have the right to diagnose and repair their own equipment, just as their parents and grandparents have done,” Sweeney said
A similar bill, House Bill 390, died in the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday on a 7-12 vote.
Four opponents representing the equipment industry said farmers would abuse their rights and modify their equipment, a statement supporters vehemently denied.
Tami Christensen owns a Case IH dealership in Sidney. She brought a different argument to the committee.
“Just because you have tools and software, doesn’t mean you are qualified to repair today’s equipment,” Christensen said.
Dave Kesler is a machinist, welder and mechanic in Philipsburg. He was one of 10 people supporting the bill.
“We’re looking to read the code, find the sensor, change the wire and get that machine back in the field,” Kesler said.
Other proponents said the bill would save farmers time and money.
The committee did not take immediate action on the bill.
James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.