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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 2, 2008

“Important free-trade decision”
Farmers beat tractor giant in court

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — Four North American farmers, including one from New York, won a legal battle last week against John Deere manufacturer Deere & Company, due largely to local attorney David P. Miranda.

Miranda, who lives in New Scotland, is a partner with the Heslin, Rothenberg, Farley, and Mesiti law firm in Albany.

“It involved international trade, and domestic and foreign policy,” he said. “It was reviewed by the president of the United States.”

Five years ago, Deere filed a complaint against the three American farmers and one Canadian farmer with the International Trade Commission. The farmers had been importing and selling John Deere forage harvesters built for the European tractor market, rather than the more expensive but nearly identical tractors meant for the United States, Miranda said.

John Deere tractor manufacturing operations were moved from the U.S. in the 1990s to Germany.

Last week, the ITC reversed a prior ruling that prevented independent farm retailers from selling the European tractors in the U.S.

“The commission’s decision is a great victory for the American farmer and for free trade,” Miranda wrote in a statement. “The American farmer will not be prohibited from importing, purchasing, and selling Deere European forage harvesters in the United States. Deere’s five-year effort to prevent the American farmer from purchasing European forage harvesters at competitive prices has failed.”

“These harvesters, which are very expensive, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Miranda told The Enterprise. At the beginning of this decade, he said, the exchange rate for the dollar and the Euro was much better, making the European harvesters less expensive, he said.

Even this week, a general search for mid-1990s harvesters in Europe and the U.S. found a large discrepancy in prices. A 1995 John Deere forage harvester was listed at 40,000 Euros, or about $58,000 USD, in the Netherlands. In the U.S., similar models of the same year were listed at $97,000 in Montana, and at $69,000 in Colorado.

Deere had claimed copyright infringement. It also claimed that differences in the European and American tractors like warranty coverage, operators’ manuals, and safety decals might not meet U.S. safety standards.

“In some respects, [European standards] are more stringent. In others, they have different concerns,” Miranda said.

Miranda’s clients, including Bourdeau Brothers of Champlain, NY (Clinton Co.), countered that official John Deere retailers in the U.S. continued to buy and sell the less expensive European versions. The ITC agreed.

“It means a lot for the people in the farming community,” Miranda said. “It means a lot for my client. They felt that what they were doing was perfectly appropriate. They persevered against a large, very solvent, multi-national company. I think it’s an important decision in issues pertaining to free trade…and U.S. jobs.”

Deere & Company representatives did not return multiple calls seeking comment.

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