I’m sure all of us have come into close proximity to the definition of the word “Propriety”, but this short doc really sort of Burned my Bagel.

Many of us here try to do as much of our own work as we find feasible, I’m sure some of you may have come across this sort of Monkey Business and it does in fact take so very many different forms. Automotive items? You bet… Consumer goods? Roger that… Disposable products? Absolutely… At least some manufacturers try to hide this unpleasantness, but this?? In fact we were just discussing a certain “fruit company” that made interesting products that had much propriety built in… I believe that same company has a hand in this debacle as well…so I guess it fits… But at this level? Its insulting.

No I’m not a farmer and no I dont own any of these products nor do I work on them…but I should be able to, if I chose to do so, dont you think? I think this example is really an in your face F-U if I dont say so meself…

How would you guys/gals feel about this sorta business plan especially in this application? These machines are in no way something I would call an “affordable” item and I bet some come with a 30yr mortgage, so this situation really is something. I think its yet another testament to the state of affairs of our “tech laden, planned obsolescence, disposable goods, proprietary” society that has grown up around us.

Now I have to go and prepare another Bagel…


I find Deere’s statement particularly amusing. The one about how customers and the company should “work together on the issue rather than invite government regulation that could add costs with no associated value.”

This seems to be a growing trend in changemaking these days, from small businesses all the way to the White House. Engineer a crisis, then negotiate for concessions in order to end the crisis that you engineered.

If Deere wanted to work together," then they should have opened discussions with their customers before unilaterally making a change in the product that did nothing but enrich Deere by screwing their customers.

Newsflash: When businesses use their power to rip people off, it’s the job of government to stop them. Government is exactly where this should be dealt with.

And by the way, the “associated value” is “Deere can’t force me to pay exorbitant ransoms every time my tractor needs minor service.” There is definite financial value in not having to waste money.

That said, the last line of the doc, about the older tractors still being capable of doing a day’s work, highlights how the farmers are being idiots. If they’re capable of doing a days work, then use them to do the work. Don’t buy the product that Deere wants to screw you over with.

I always find it amazing how consumers behave. Malignant products, whether it’s tractors, or cars, or computer games, still get bought. “I really hate the practices of this business, and I hate that I have to keep paying every week in order to continue using it. Here’s my credit card number” is not the way to get companies to change their practices. Don’t buy that crap, and the companies will behave on their own.

Unfortunately, that theory of capitalism only works if the people participating in the system aren’t stupid, and there are enough stupid people out there ready to throw money at anything that the rest of us get screwed no matter what. Hence the need for government intervention.


Well said @shadowfax… I too also wondered why JD even had a following in light of this situation that I am sure didn’t happen overnight. However, like you said…perhaps the consumers do share a tiny bit of blame by not revolting or at least not buying. But its really a shame it has to come to that.

I think it’s a matter of, they can do a days work, but not at the level required by today’s farmer. Those older tractors are dinky by comparison. They can do a days work but it would take them a week to do the same amount of work the newer, gigantic tractor can do. So, for the farmer to be competitive, he needs that larger tractor but it comes at the expense of not being able to fix it himself. It seemed to me his real point was that, even at 20+ years old, that tractor still works and can be repaired if it breaks. The newer ones are proprietary and even so, they may not offer repair parts if they choose not to support something anymore (like the GPS receiver example). If he had access to the tools, he could retrofit an older unit and keep it running versus pay the price for an updated unit.

They are really at the mercy of these large corporations. Yes, they could boycott the ones doing this but, they are all doing it! Who is going to be the guinea pig that has deep enough pockets to outlast them? If they can at all. They have a business to run in order to survive. Challenging big business is tough work. Perhaps by banding together they can effect change but it going to be a long road, as seen in the video with broader interests getting involved…

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Around here, these very large farm implements are not owned by farmers. They are owned by small companies, some family owned, who then contract to farmers to do there fields. One of these family owned companies is on the road I live on.

They have a very large building where they do the maintenance and operate out of and a field that serves as a parking lot for these implements. They go all over the county plowing, spraying, planting and harvesting the fields under contract. The farmers themselves mostly run the farm as a business, making the decisions on what to plant and where that year and selling the crop at the end of the season. They don’t get out into the fields as much, mostly inspecting when they do.

I believe the word you want is “proprietary”.


This issue has been going on for a long time and it’s not just farm equipment but it’s software in your cars, homes, business equipment, etc. I don’t know that there is a simple answer but just like with OBD requirements to make diagnostic software available for after-market for cars, similar needs to be done for farm, home, business, etc. Part of the issue is you paid for it but you don’t own the software. Mike can probably sum up the issues better, but it would be nice if the little kids in Congress would quit their petty arguments and actually do something to promote business and technology as well as identity theft. That’s really what we hired them for.

Most of the “software” applications sold now are “in the cloud”. You don’t actually buy anything tangible, you buy access to utilities that are tools to do things you want, like track inventory or keep data on personnel or manage your university. When you download an app you don’t own it, you use it for a cost which might be money or might be sharing your data.

Do agricultural businesses buy these tractors or do they lease them? If they lease them they don’t own them, and if they don’t own them then whoever does can control who fixes them, and how much they charge. And they can track them all they want. When you rent or lease a car there’s a GPS tracker in it and the leasing company knows exactly where it is and how it’s being used - how fast you drive, where you drive, when you drive and if they wanted they could even record who’s driving with a simple camera.

At that point you’re sliding into the same debate around GMO seeds that you’re not allowed to replant year after year. Yes, the farmer chose to go with the seeds that gave him higher yield. There are requirements for getting access to those seeds. He can always plant heirlooms instead, and end up with a smaller yield but no requirement to buy seed every year.

That they keep buying seed every year points to the idea that they’re netting more money with the seed subscription than they would with the lower yields that allowed them to be fully independent.

Same thing with the tractors. Farming isn’t a competitive business. Crop prices are set externally to the farm, and you do not have to out-compete your neighbor in order to survive. You only need to grow enough of whatever you’re growing to be in the black, and you can do that without GMO crops or fancy tractors. But GMO crops and fancy tractors make it easier, and they increase your payday which lets you splurge on that King Ranch-edition pickup truck with heated leather seats.

These are decisions the farmers are making, and then they’re getting mad that they have to pay for the decisions that they made.

That’s why I have absolutely no sympathy for the farmers whining about not being able to save seed; you knew that going in, you chose to do it anyway, and now you want your cake and eat it too.

I do have some sympathy on the tractor issue because while established farmers can still pull out that 20 year old combine and get the job done, brand new farmers may have to buy newer equipment because they can’t get hold of the old stuff, and they should not automatically be penalized just because their predecessors made stupid decisions.

Plus, when you get down to it, the tractor is, like cars, hardware, and we should be able to within reason repair our own hardware.

Farming has become big business. The little guy is getting squeezed out. They cannot afford the capital expense to buy these big implements in order to be competitive. That has led to everything from decades long contracts, to leasing, to sub-letting to selling out to bigger operations and working for “the man” versus for yourself. Your example just moves the problem up one level. Those people servicing multiple farms still have to be able to repair and keep those machines running. Maybe even more reliant as there isn’t another tractor on the next farm over to lend a hand. There’s one or two working all of the fields in that area and if they go down, then multiple farms suffer…

Ah, some of my life-long friends would argue that point pretty convincingly as many of them got pushed out. It’s not a matter of price setting and everyone’s boat floats. You still have to produce enough to make enough profit to float your own boat. You think those government prices are a gravy train that anyone can be profitable on? No way. Farms are no different than any business. They need to continue to grow and change or they die. At any rate, there are thousands of used-to-be-farmers that could explain it better than me…

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I didn’t say you don’t need to make a profit. I specifically said you need to make enough to stay in the black. But you do not have to produce more than your neighbor in order to survive. As long as you produce enough to stay in the black, then even if your neighbor produces twice as much as you do, you’re still in the black.

The point is that greed led to buying those seeds and these tractors without considering the consequences of buying them. No one hid the fact that you can’t save engineered seed. No one hid the fact that you have to have the dealership repair the tractor.

But those things were in the future and the money to be made was now, and the human is one species of ape that actually has the intellectual capacity to prepare for the future but often refuses to do so.

So now enough of them have bought into these things that prices are suppressed and it’s getting the smarter farmers in trouble, but a lot of it was predictable and came from within the farmers’ own ranks. Had farmers refused to buy seeds that they couldn’t save, and refused to buy tractors they couldn’t fix, then the people selling those seeds and tractors would have either stopped making those things a requirement, or gone belly-up, and the farmers wouldn’t be in this mess today.

Farming is competitive, and there is a compelling argument that the farmer who doesn’t use the new GMO seeds is put at a competitive disadvantage. The pressure to put out a product that is as good as your neighbor’s GMO product is real, especially with some pesticides being prohibited, pushing more farmers to use the GMO seeds.

True, but if your neighbor’s crops are superior to yours, you’re no longer producing a commodity. Commodities are indistinguishable among the supply.

Don’t look behind the curtain or you might be terribly surprised. The Wizard’s there and his boss will soon own everything and we’re becoming share croppers who will owe our souls to the company store.

A local farmer had a profitable 1,000 acre farm and spent his winters buying repossessed farm equipment. He cleaned and repaired it and sold it at a good profit. Much of the equipment was John Deere and it’s likely that there are quite a few people like him around and John Deere may want to push them out and keep all the profits to themselves.

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The thing is, if I set a plate of Bt (GMO) corn and a plate of non-Bt corn in front of you, you wouldn’t taste any difference. If you buy frozen or canned corns, you probably have both GMO and non-GMO corn in the same container, and you can’t tell them apart.

To the end-user, the quality of Bt corn is indistinguishable from the quality of non-Bt corn. The only thing eating the corn that can tell the difference is the insect that preys on the crop - Bt kills them, non-Bt does not.

GMO corn generally increases yields, but doesn’t change the quality of the product, so you will be able to sell your non-GMO corn for the same price as your neighbor is selling his GMO crop. You might even be able to sell it for more if you can find a business that wants it to cater to the anti-science crowd (see: Chipotle restaurants).

BTW you can spray bacillus thuriengiensis on non-Bt corn and get similar results (unsurprisingly since it’s the same product as the Bt corn is producing) and it’s so non-harmful to humans that if it’s sprayed on a non-GMO crop it can legally be called organic.

At any rate, this is getting way into the weeds, but it is interesting how seed politics and car repair are actually directly related in some ways.


I deal with this and have been for over 40 years. I’m amazed it’s that way with John Deere. There were laws back in the 70’s passed by congress that outlawed most of that in the computer industry. IBM tried to stop other companies like Memorex from making Hard drives and Tape drivers that could be used on their systems. So laws were passed that basically said IBM MUST DISCLOSE enough of their software for companies to compete.

I can understand why John Deere wants to keep their software a closed system, but I think there’s a way to make it open enough to do diagnostics without compromising their propriety information. ODB-II does just that. There are companies today that have software and hardware so a third-party can reprogram almost any computer controlled transmission. Same thing for electronic Keys and Fobs.

The only thing I can think of why this isn’t happening with these tractors is the extremely low volume. No third party company finds it worth their time to reverse-engineer the software to create viable third-party hardware/software diagnostic tools. Since there’s probably a ratio of 500,000 cars to 1 Big Tractor, third-party companies can do the engineering and build these tools.

Short term it’s a revenue stream for John Deere. But what I foresee happening is some other tractor company coming along and builds a tractor that CAN be serviced a lot cheaper.

I’m also amazed that John Deere doesn’t have a remote diagnostic service. I can easily see John Deere selling a little box that’ll connect to the tractor and then John Deere can remotely (via Web or satellite) hook-up and run diagnostics remotely. Or even better remote diagnostic capability is built into the tractor. My company sells telecom equipment all over the world, and that’s exactly what we do. We can diagnose well north of 95% of all problems remotely. Most of the time is passive diagnostics…the system detects a problem and sends us an email. We review the error and take appropriate action - which may include sending a technician out.


I work with Cloud Computing (Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure), and it’s a growing market. Within 2 years over 80% off all corporate computing will be in the cloud.

I’ve got relatives that are big time farming and its just amazing how everything is computerized now. The fields are GPS mapped and they know exactly what has been put where, etc. Yep, if OnStar can tell me what’s wrong in my garage and what the tire pressures are, no reason Deere can’t. In farm country though, if you are green, all of your equipment is green and yellow, even their lawn mowers. Likewise if you are red, everything will be red. So it’s essentially a monopoly and Deere pretty much does what they want.

@NYBo Yes you are probably correct… I wrongly thought having “Propriety” was a form of the word Proprietary. I’m sure you knew what I meant as I used the word Proprietary several times in the post. Oh well, I cant get all the words correct all the time, but at least I try.

You know what I meant…and dernit I cant change a title of a post.

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You’re OK as long as you didn’t mix up your/you’re/yore or to/too/two or there/their/they’re, etc.