In the recently enacted Farm Bill, there is a provision that makes it more difficult to access data from the United States Department of Agriculture – Farm Service Agency. The provision (Section 1619) was enacted to address privacy concerns. Evidently, the Federal Government is concerned that some outside groups are accessing the data for other less reputable purposes.
Here is a good summary from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers website:
Section 1619 was the big topic of the week while at the Leadership Institute. This is viewed by all as a farmer privacy issue with very strong political support. We believe we made some headway in getting most to listen to our concerns and we promised to follow-up with more detail, which we are in the process of doing. We were assured by many of those involved that appraisers were not a target of the new privacy protections but rather innocent bystanders. Nevertheless regaining access to needed data is going to be an uphill climb.
This was our message in a nutshell: Appraising within the confines of 1619 will:
Take more time. The need for release of information signatures alone will be time consuming.
- Cost the client more. Time is money.
- Be of greater burden on the FSA offices. We could get this information from other sources previously.
- Be much more difficult to get proper analysis of comparable sales. It is unlikely that unknown buyers will grant permission for FSA data.
- Slow down the lending process while they wait for the appraisal.
- Will likely result in less accurate market value estimates.
We have heard from some appraiser members indicating that this change is making it difficult to access the necessary farm data. I wonder if any other appraisers are also seeing similar problems?
Here is a link to the full text of the bill.
And pasted below is the Pertinent Section of the bill:
SEC. 1619. INFORMATION GATHERING.
(a) Geospatial Systems.–The Secretary shall ensure that all the
geospatial data of the agencies of the Department of Agriculture are
portable and standardized.
(b) Limitation on Disclosures.–
(1) Definition of agricultural operation.–In this
subsection, the term “agricultural operation” includes the
production and marketing of agricultural commodities and
(2) Prohibition.–Except as provided in paragraphs (3) and
(4), the Secretary, any officer or employee of the Department
of Agriculture, or any contractor or cooperator of the
Department, shall not disclose–
(A) information provided by an agricultural
producer or owner of agricultural land concerning the
agricultural operation, farming or conservation
practices, or the land itself, in order to participate
in programs of the Department; or
(B) geospatial information otherwise maintained by
the Secretary about agricultural land or operations for
which information described in subparagraph (A) is
(3) Authorized disclosures.–
(A) Limited release of information.–If the
Secretary determines that the information described in
paragraph (2) will not be subsequently disclosed except
in accordance with paragraph (4), the Secretary may
release or disclose the information to a person or
Federal, State, local, or tribal agency working in
cooperation with the Secretary in any Department
(i) when providing technical or financial
assistance with respect to the agricultural
operation, agricultural land, or farming or
conservation practices; or
(ii) when responding to a disease or pest
threat to agricultural operations, if the
Secretary determines that a threat to
agricultural operations exists and the
disclosure of information to a person or
cooperating government entity is necessary to
assist the Secretary in responding to the
disease or pest threat as authorized by law.
(4) Exceptions.–Nothing in this subsection affects–
(A) the disclosure of payment information
(including payment information and the names and
addresses of recipients of payments) under any
Department program that is otherwise authorized by law;
(B) the disclosure of information described in
paragraph (2) if the information has been transformed
into a statistical or aggregate form without naming
(i) individual owner, operator, or
(ii) specific data gathering site; or
(C) the disclosure of information described in
paragraph (2) pursuant to the consent of the
agricultural producer or owner of agricultural land.
(5) Condition of other programs.–The participation of the
agricultural producer or owner of agricultural land in, or
receipt of any benefit under, any program administered by the
Secretary may not be conditioned on the consent of the
agricultural producer or owner of agricultural land under
(6) Waiver of privilege or protection.–The disclosure of
information under paragraph (2) shall not constitute a waiver
of any applicable privilege or protection under Federal law,
including trade secret protection.