Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Australian Community Media. Here’s the most recent article from FFN Director Amelia Shaw

With the agricultural industry in a positive uplift, compared to recent years, it’s important we keep progressing the issues which can untap productivity gains, create competition and promote job creation in our regions. Whilst there are a lot of strategic issues agriculture needs to be tackling now, one that should not be overlooked is Right to Repair.

‘Right to repair’ is the ability for a consumer (the farmer) to repair faulty goods, or access repair services at a competitive price. Over the past 13 years the value of a grains farm’s machinery has more than doubled.  It’s not only the expense of the initial investment that makes the eyes water, but the ongoing repair costs set back the grains sector $625million in 2018. It’s important to note that repairs are the fastest-growing input cost over time, outstripping wages and chemical costs. The Australian Productivity Commission is anticipated to release their final report on Right to Repair this month, which will ideally recommend greater coverage for Agriculture.

When it comes to global positioning on Right to Repair, Australia lags behind, and agricultural consumers are at the bottom of the consideration pile. While right to repair is a complex policy issue, the fundamental premise is simple – farmers should have the ability to access parts at an affordable price regardless of where they have been sourced. For example, if the everyday consumer should have the ability to fix their cracked fruit-branded smartphone screen with another manufacture – the same should be said for those on farms, the price of the goods, be it a $400 phone or a $650,000 header shouldn’t make a difference.

Growers reiterate this issue isn’t about someone tinkering away at a piece of machinery in the shed with no idea what they’re doing. it’s about farmers having the right to either choose to use authentic parts provided by the original manufacturer or go with generic parts of a local technician. The arguments around safety concerns about on-farm repairs can be addressed in the same was other consumer goods are. Many overlook the years of experience many farmers have working with and repairing these machines.

The potential benefits to farmers from Right to Repair for agriculture doesn’t even touch the sides of the potential to enable greater sovereign manufacturing capabilities and skills growth in regions. If could improve both our right to repair frameworks and connectivity issues who knows what new prospects would arise.