by Evelyn Pyburn

As someone coming from farm life, I fully know the urgency farmers face during harvest or planting season. Even 15 minutes of “daylight” is vital. Waiting days for some techy to arrive to fix a broken-down piece of equipment is simply not an option. Waiting even two or three days could mean crop failure to a degree that they might as well declare bankruptcy, right then and there. There is no negotiating with Mother Nature.

A break-down in the field was always an opportunity for my brothers or Dad to discover another amazing invention, which often involved the great versatility of bailing wire.

Then there was the time that the witchamajig  that tied one of the knots on bales of hay quit working  and I was sat in place to tie each knot as the bale inched out of the baler – it didn’t even take Dad fifteen minutes to come up with that solution! Be assured that tying hundreds of knots does pose some risk for  painful fingers. But, hey! It worked.

Well, farm machines don’t use witchamajigs any more – like cars they are designed with tons of computerized programs and technology that are as sophisticated as anything that flies airplanes or rocket ships. Baling wire just doesn’t work – but neither does sending out a repairman from Bozeman by mid-afternoon  — in all likelihood they aren’t available. Fixing things that go wrong with the today’s technology takes great expertise and knowledge – -and scheduling, which can very well stretch into two or three days – plenty of time for two or three thundershowers that halt field work until windrows dry or create mud holes that bogs down equipment.

With the new age technology, however, the manufactures of the computerized equipment do not want to share their trade secrets, which telling farmers how to fix it would likely do — an understandable dilemma. One could have seen this dilemma coming a mile away, when they first started announcing what the new age farm equipment was going to be like. Maybe technicians and company CEO’s – -generations off the farm – didn’t understand the importance of timely maintenance and repairs, but they surely do now as farmers – their customers – are demanding speedy repairs in the field.

The big question is: what does the state legislature have to do with it? 

This is a market problem and it should be ironed out between the manufacturing companies and their customers. If the companies fail to meet what their customers need and want they will lose out to competitors who will. Or, at the very least used farm equipment, without all the new technology will escalate in value as it is sought out by farmers who want to make sure they can get their crops planted and their harvest in, even if it is with old technology.

That is what happens in a free market.

Anything forthcoming from politicians tinkering with the situation will only cause other problems. Don’t know what it will be, but that it will be there is no doubt.

 This is a really big issue that will face many people in the market place as more and more technology is developed. It needs to be corrected the right way, right now…. and it’s unlikely politicians have the answer. 

This is actually just one market problem with which Montana legislators are wrangling –  problems that the market should be allowed to sort out – -unless of course it is a problem that previous political meddling has created. Then they need to untangle that past interference and then get out of the way. That’s essentially what all the bills removing red tape which the Governor has pushed forward is all about — undoing the tangled messes that were created by meddling with market issues. Again, it’s too bad more people don’t have confidence in markets. Markets work!


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