By David Shepardson and Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden wants to give American farmers more power to negotiate the sale of cattle to large processors and to decide who repairs their tractors, the White House said Tuesday.
The executive order, expected in a few days, will also address competitive issues such as airline luggage delay, cell phone company practices and Pentagon contracts, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters.
The order would encourage the Federal Trade Commission to limit the ability of agricultural equipment manufacturers to prevent tractor owners from using independent repair shops or repairing their own equipment.
Reuters first reported the action on the repairs earlier on Tuesday and the planned executive order last week.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday the effort would help farmers “fight abuses of power by giant agribusiness corporations and give farmers the right to repair their own equipment however they want.” .
The FTC wrote a report to Congress in May that discussed the “right to repair,” addressing the limits manufacturers place on who can repair items ranging from cell phones to appliances to automobiles. Such limits can also increase the price of those repairs.
The source said the FTC would establish the scope of any “right to redress” rule.
Biden’s order could encourage the FTC to further lift the limits consumers face in repairing the products they buy.
Some tractor manufacturers such as Deere (NYSE 🙂 & Co, AGCO Corp, and CNHI use proprietary repair software and tools to prevent third parties from performing some repairs. Shares of the companies fell on news of Biden’s plans, first reported by Reuters on Tuesday.
John Deere said in a statement that it “does not endorse the right to modify embedded software due to risks associated with safe equipment operation, emissions compliance and engine performance.”
He added that “less than 2 percent of all repairs require a software update, so most of the repairs farmers need to make can be done easily.”
The FTC did not immediately comment.
The source said that Biden and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) “believe that farmers should have the right to repair their own equipment however they want.”
Separately, Biden plans to direct the USDA to write rules to boost competition in agricultural industries, including one under the Packers and Corrals Act to make it easier for farmers to file claims, the White House said. There will also be retaliation protections for farmers who express concern about poor practices.
Biden will also direct the USDA to issue new rules defining when meat can carry “Product of USA” labels, Psaki said.
Under current labeling rules, meat can be labeled “Product of USA.” If processed in the United States, even if the cattle are raised abroad and then processed into cuts of meat in a US facility.
Meat packaging has come under increased scrutiny after slaughterhouses temporarily closed during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, pushing up the prices of meat sold by processors like JBS USA and Tyson Foods Inc (NYSE 🙂 while reducing farmers’ livestock prices.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has said he wants agricultural markets to be fairer and more resilient after the pandemic highlighted how concentration in the sector can harm farmers. Four companies slaughter about 85% of U.S. grain-fattened cattle that are turned into steaks, roasts and other cuts of meat for consumers. The USDA said in June it would begin work on three rules to strengthen the application of the Law of Packers and Corrales, approved. 100 years ago to protect farmers and ranchers from unfair business practices.