Note: For data requests for data about yourself, your minor child, or for someone whom you are a legal guardian, please consult MDA’s Data Access Procedures: Requests for Data About You and Your Rights as a Data Subject

Your Right to See Public Data

The Government Data Practices Act (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13) presumes that all government data are public unless a state or federal law says the data are not public. Government data means all recorded information a government entity has, including paper, email, flash drives, CDs, DVDs, photographs, etc.

The law also says that the Department of Agriculture (“MDA”) must keep its government data in a way that makes it easy for you to access public data. You have the right to look at (inspect), free of charge, all public data that we keep. You also have the right to get copies of public data. The Data Practices Act allows us to charge for copies. You have the right to look at data, free of charge, before deciding to request copies.

How to Request Public Data

Data requests must be in writing, and should be mailed or emailed to the appropriate data practices designee listed in MDA’s Data Practices Contacts. When making a data request, you must state whether you wish to look at (inspect) data at our offices, or if you want copies of the data. If you have any questions about making a data request, or are unsure of which designee to direct your data request, contact MDA’s Data Practices Compliance Official.

We recommend using the sample Data Request Form – Members of the Public. If you do not use the data request form, your request must do the following:

  • Say that you are making a request for public data under the Government Data Practices Act (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13);
  • Include whether you would like to inspect the data or get copies of the data;
  • Provide a clear description of the data you would like to inspect or have copied.

You are not required to identify yourself or explain the reason for your data request. However, you may need to provide us with some contact information for practical reasons (for example: if you want us to mail copies to you, you need to provide us with an address or P.O Box). Also, if we do not understand your request and have no way to contact you, we cannot respond to your request. For this reason, we recommend providing an email address so that MDA may follow up on your data request with any questions we may have.

How We Will Respond to Your Data Request

Upon receiving your request, we will review it. 

  • We may ask you to clarify what data you are requesting.
  • If we do not have the data, we will tell you as soon as reasonably possible.
  • If we have the data, but we are not allowed to give it to you, we will tell you as soon as reasonably possible and identify the law that restricts us from providing the data. 
  • If we have the data, and the data are public, we will respond to your request appropriately and promptly, within a reasonable amount of time by doing one of the following:
    • Arrange a date, time, and place for you to inspect the data at our offices; or
    • Tell you the amount you owe for copy costs, and then provide you with copies of the data as soon as reasonably possible after you pay them. You may choose to pick up your copies, or we will mail or email them to you. We will provide electronic copies (such as email or CD-ROM) upon request if we keep the data in that format and we can reasonably make a copy.  
    • Response time may be impacted by the size and/or complexity of your request, and also by the number of requests you make in a given period of time.
  • If you do not arrange to inspect the data or pay for the copies within 15 business days after we contact you about your request, we will conclude that you no longer want the data and will consider your request closed.

If you do not understand some of the data (technical terminology, abbreviations, or acronyms), please contact the person who provided the data to you. We will give you an explanation if you ask. 

The Data Practices Act does not require us to create or collect new data in response to a data request, or to provide data in a specific form or arrangement if we do not keep the data in that form or arrangement. For example, if the data you request are on paper only, we are not required to create electronic documents to respond to your request. If we agree to create data in response to your request, the requirements of the Data Practices Act do not apply and we will contact you to discuss timing and payment details.

The Data Practices Act also does not require MDA to respond to questions, with the exception of those that are necessary to understand the meaning of responsive data.

Requests for Summary Data

Summary data are statistical records or reports created by removing identifying information about individuals from entirely private or confidential data. We will create summary data if you request it in writing and pre-pay for the cost of creating the data.  

You may use the data request form to request summary data. We will respond to your request within ten business days with the data or details of when the data will be ready and how much we will charge you.        

Copy Costs – When You Request Public Data

Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 3(c) allows us to charge for copies. We charge for copies of government data when the total charges are $50.00 or more. Copy costs must be paid in full before MDA will provide the requested copies. Multiple requests made within the same 10 business-day period will be treated as a single request for the purposes of calculating total copy costs, and to determine whether the $50.00 threshold is met.

For 100 or fewer paper copies – 25 cents per page

100 or fewer pages of black and white, letter or legal size paper copies cost 25¢ for a one-sided copy, or 50¢ for a two-sided copy.

Most other types of copies – actual cost

The charge for most other types of copies, when a charge is not set by statute or rule, is the actual cost of searching for and retrieving the data, and making the copies or electronically sending the data. 

In determining the actual cost of making copies, we include employee time, the cost of the materials onto which we are copying the data (paper, CD, DVD, etc.), and mailing costs (if any). If your request is for copies of data that we cannot copy ourselves, such as photographs, we will charge you the actual cost we must pay an outside vendor for the copies.

If, based on your request, we find it necessary for a higher-paid employee to search for and retrieve the data, we will calculate search and retrieval charges at the higher salary/wage.

If possible, and upon request, we will provide you with an estimation of the total cost of supplying copies.