Your Right to Access State Government Data

All state government data collected created, received, maintained or disseminated by a government agency in Minnesota are public unless otherwise classified by law.

The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Minnesota State Statute, Chapter 13, establishes the following rights and responsibilities for access to government data.

  • Records containing government data must be easily accessible for convenient use, and agencies must comply with requests for data in an appropriate and prompt manner.
  • You have the right to inspect public government data at reasonable times and places at no cost.
  • You have the right to get copies of public government data upon request. You may be charged for the cost of copying public data.
  • You have the right to be informed of the meaning of public data.
  • If the data you ask to see are classified in a way that prevents you from seeing them, you have the right to be informed of that fact, and to be told the statute or law that classifies the data. You may request that this be done in writing.

Please Submit all Requests in Writing

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture receives many requests for data each week. Submitting a request in writing not only provides you with a record that you sent us a request, but it helps us keep track of the status of your request.

It is our goal to process all requests for data in a timely and accurate manner. To help us reach that goal, your request should be legible and include your name, company or agency (if applicable), complete mailing address, telephone number, and if you have access to a fax machine and/or Email, your fax number and/or Email address.

Clearly specify the data that you are interested in receiving. If you are unsure or need assistance in determining what data might fit your needs, contact the MDA's Data Practices and Records Manager at 651-201-6435, or fax at 651-201-6118.

If you are requesting complaint or incident data please include, if you have it, the legal description of the property in question, the approximate date of occurrence, and any other information that might help us better identify the data in our records systems.

Requests for computer data should also specify a format (i.e. paper list, labels, or computer disk). If you are requesting a paper list, specify the order or index desired (i.e. alphabetical by name, Zip code, etc.).

Requests for company or site histories (inspections, investigations, storage and tank information, license information, violation and noncompliance issues) should include the last known name of the company or site and any previous names. Include the city and a street address if that is known.

In-Person Data Reviews

You may review any file or other MDA data at no charge. However, we request that you make an appointment in advance for such a viewing. All appointments for viewing data must be made during normal MDA business hours (8:00 AM - 5:00 PM Monday through Friday, holidays excluded).

Appointments help us serve you better and:

  • Gives us the time necessary to gather the requested data. We do not keep all of our records at our St. Paul office. Some records may be housed at the States Records Center or in our Records Storage Facility, particularly if they are more than 2 years old.
  • Gives us time to review government data for data privacy and protection issues, and to separate non-public data from public data.
  • Ensures that the appropriate staff personnel are available, if needed, to answer your questions or explain the meaning of the data.
  • Ensures that we can reserve an appropriate room or make other private accommodations available for your review of the data.

Data Practices

State government data is presumed to be "public" unless a statute, federal law, or temporary classification specifically classifieds the data as "not public" or otherwise restricts the use or disclosure to the data. Everyone has a fundamental right to access "public" data. However, access to data that is "not public" is restricted. The term access refers to the right to view the data or to obtain a physical copy or verbal disclosure of the data.

Access to Data that is not Public

You will be notified either by telephone or in writing of any data that you cannot legally access. In such cases, we will specify what was withheld and what statutory or legal authority prevents us from disclosing that data to you. You have the right to seek access to data that is not public, if by:

  • Informed consent. You may access private data on another person if that person gives us their written permission to disclose the data to you. In the case where the subject of the data is a minor, the minor's legal guardian must give (sign) the informed consent. We have a form ideally suited for this purpose that is specifically designed to comply with the Informed Consent Requirements of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. Consent signatures may require certification by a notary or the submission of identification to adequately prove that the signature is actually that of the data subject. This requirement is to protect the privacy rights of the subject of the data.
  • Court order. You may access any data that is not public if a court of law orders us to allow you access to that data. A subpoena is not acceptable for this purpose. For more information regarding access to data that is not public, consult Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13, Section 13.03, and subdivision 6.
  • The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FOIA does not apply to data requests made to state or local governments. It only applies to requests for data made to the federal government or agencies. All requests for federal government data should be made to the appropriate federal agency. You can find these agencies listed under "Federal Government" in the white pages of the telephone directory. The provisions of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act govern all requests for state or local government data in Minnesota.

Your Rights as the Subject of Government Data

The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act provides you with certain rights (M.S. Section 13.04, subdivision 4). These rights include, but are not limited to, the following provisions:

  • Whenever a state or local government agency asks you to provide private or confidential data about yourself, you must be told (1) Why the information is being collected, (2) How the information will be used by the collecting agency, (3) Whether you can refuse or are legally required to provide the data that is being requested, (4) What the consequences are to you if you supply or refuse to supply the data, and (5) The identity of other persons or entities, which are authorized by law to have access to that data.
  • You have the right to know what data are maintained about you and how the data is classified.
  • You have the right to view, at no cost, all public and private data maintained about you.
  • You have the right to have public and private data explained to you.
  • You have the right to receive copies of public data and private data about yourself; however, you may be charged a reasonable fee for this service.
  • You have the right to challenge the accuracy and completeness of any public or private data about yourself.
  • You have the right to challenge an adverse decision by appealing that decision to the Commissioner of Administration.
  • You have the right to include an explanation about adverse information.

Certified Copies

If you want copies of data certified as true and correct copies of original documents maintained by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, you must specify this in your request. Certified copies carry the same weight as the original document in a court of law. Document certification is an optional service. There is an additional per-page charge for this service and this additional charge is listed on our Data Request Fee Schedule.

Duplication of Certain Media

Duplication of certain media (i.e. photographs) may involve the use of outside sources or vendors, whose fees we do not control and which are subject to change without notice. We do not publish these fees. However, when a request involves the duplication of special media, the duplication costs will be itemized in the data request cost estimate, along with any other duplication fees. Generally speaking, special media duplication will extend the time required to complete the processing of your request.

Payment of Data Request Service Fees

Minnesota Statute, Chapter 13, Section 13.03, subdivision 3, authorizes the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to charge a fee to recover our costs to provide data including, but not limited to, costs associated with searching, compiling, copying, mailing or otherwise shipping the data. Additionally, the same statute allows us to charge a reasonable fee for data with a commercial value. We do not charge for:

  • Allowing you to review data if you do not also require a copy of the data.
  • The staff time to separate public data from non-public or protected data.
  • Responding to data requests that involve the duplicating of ten or fewer pages of plain text paper records, when the staff time to compile and prepare the data is less than 15 minutes and there are no special services or expenses incurred (i.e. color copies, certification, etc.).

Except for that noted above, we do charge data request service fees for supplying data including, but not limited to, searching, retrieving, compiling, copy costs, certification costs, and shipping charges. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture uses two basic fee schedules for charging for data requests. One fee schedule is based upon data that is stored in our computer systems and the other is for data stored in our paper records. Charges from one or the other, or both, may apply to your data request depending upon where the data being requested is stored. A written estimate of the charges for your data request will be provided, either by fax, regular or Email, when these charges are calculated. Since the Minnesota Department of Agriculture requires the prepayment of all data request fees prior to shipping the material, we will not bill for data request services, except in very special circumstances involving extensive data research. In such cases, an estimate for a down payment must be prepaid prior to the Department of Agriculture starting the work on your data request.

Current MDA Data Request Fee Schedule

  • There is no charge for 10 pages or less of plain text copy.
  • For more than 10 pages of copy, there is a charge of 25¢ per page copying costs.
  • Hourly salary and fringe benefit costs of the person copying and preparing the data request are based on the first ½ hour of preparation time being free. Thereafter, there is a $18.00 per hour charge for processing the data request. These charges are based upon quarters of an hour ($3.75).
  • $10.00 for each audiotape, videotape, or computer disk.
  • 75¢ per page of color photographs
  • $6.00 per 1000 labels
  • $1.00 per page certification fee
  • Applicable shipping or facsimile (long-distance telephone charges) fees.

Submitting Your Data Request

Direct your request and all inquiries regarding data requests or the availability of data from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to:

Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Attn: Data Practices Compliance Official
625 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55155-2538
Phone: 651-201-6435
Fax: 651-201-6118