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Submitting a Public Information Request
How to Make a Public Information Request
To request records maintained by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), you must submit a request in writing using one of the following methods:
  1. By submitting a request online.
  2. Mail to:
    Public Information Office
    Texas Department of Agriculture
    PO Box 12847
    Austin, Texas 78711
  3. Fax to: (800) 509-1159
  4. Email: Pub.Info@TexasAgriculture.gov.
  5. In person at any TDA office. You can find a list of locations by clicking here.  

Public information requests are not accepted by phone. You do not need to use a specific form to submit a public information request.

What to Include in Your Request
Your written request should include, at a minimum, the following information:
1.      Your name and current contact information (email, phone number, address);
2.      The manner in which you  are requesting the information be delivered to you (postal mail, email, in person), and the format in which you would like it provided (electronic or printed files);
3.      A detailed description of the information you are requesting;
4.      Any relevant dates, incident, investigation, or report numbers; and
5.      Any other information that may helpful to promptly identify the information and provide a response to your request.
Be sure to provide the best information so that the Public Information Office may contact you if more information is needed or there are any questions or issues with your request.
You do not have to indicate why you need the information or what it will be used for.  You will never be asked these questions when requesting public information.
 

Texas Government Code, Chapter 552, also known as the Public Information Act (PIA), gives members of the public the right to access government records. This right of access is embodied in the following statement from PIA:

The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

To ensure that members of the public are not inhibited from requesting public information, the PIA prohibits governmental bodies from asking why the information is being requested.  The PIA also sets forth procedures for handling requests for public information to ensure a timely, adequate response.

All government information is presumed to be available to the public. However, exceptions exist which may limit the public disclosure of certain types of confidential, privileged, or sensitive information. Governmental bodies must promptly release requested information that does not fall within one of the exceptions set forth in the PIA.

If the governmental body believes the requested information falls within one of the PIA's exceptions, it must request an opinion from the Texas Office of the Attorney General within 10 business days. If the governmental body fails to do so, the information is presumed to be public and must be released absent a compelling reason.


Rights of Requestors

Members of the public have the right to:

  • Prompt access to information that is not confidential or otherwise excepted from disclosure;
  • Receive treatment equal to all other requestors, including accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements;
  • Receive certain kinds of information without exceptions, like the voting record of public officials;
  • Receive a written itemized statement of estimated charges prior to further processing of the request, when charges will exceed $40, and opportunity to modify the request in response to the itemized statement;
  • Choose, in some instances, whether to inspect the requested information in person (usually at no charge), receive copies of the information, or both;
  • A waiver or reduction of charges if the governmental body determines that access to the information primarily benefits the general public;
  • Receive a copy of the communication from the governmental body asking the Office of the Attorney General for an opinion on whether the information can or must be withheld under one of the PIA's exceptions. (If the communication itself would reveal the information at issue, a redacted copy is provided.); and,
  • Lodge a written complaint about overcharges for public information with the General Services Commission. Complaints of other possible violations of the PIA may be filed with the Office of the Attorney General, Open Records Division.



Responsibilities of Governmental Bodies

All governmental bodies responding to information requests have the responsibility to:

  • Establish reasonable procedures for inspecting or copying public information;
  • Inform requestors of established procedures;
  • Treat all requestors uniformly and give the requestor all reasonable comfort and facility, including accommodation in accordance with ADA requirements;
  • Be informed about open records laws and educate employees on the requirements of those laws;
  • Inform requestors of the estimated charges when greater than $40 and any changes in the estimates that exceed 20% of the original estimate;
  • When greater than $40, confirm that the requestor accepts the charges or has amended the request in writing before further processing the request;
  • Inform the requestor if the information cannot be provided promptly and set a reasonable date and time when the information can be made available;
  • Request an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General regarding any information the governmental body wishes to withhold and send a copy of the request, or a redacted copy, to the requestor;
  • Segregate public information from information that may or must be withheld and provide the public information by the 10th business day after receiving the request;
  • Make a good faith attempt to inform third parties when their proprietary or other confidential information on file with the governmental body is being requested;
  • Respond in writing to all written communications from the General Services Commission regarding charges for public information; and,
  • Respond to the Office of the Attorney General regarding complaints about violations of the Act.



Procedures to Obtain Information

  1. Submit request by mail, fax, e-mail, or in person according to the governmental body's established procedures.
  2. Include sufficient description and detail to enable the governmental body to accurately identify and locate the requested information.
  3. Cooperate with the governmental body's reasonable efforts to clarify the type or amount of information requested.


Information to be Released

  • If it cannot be produced within 10 working days, the public information officer will notify the requestor in writing of a reasonable date and time when it will be available.
  • Failing to keep appointments may result in losing the opportunity to inspect the information at the time requested.



Cost of Records

  • A person requesting public information must respond to any written estimate of charges within 10 days after the date the governmental body sent it or the request is considered automatically withdrawn.
  • If estimated costs exceed $100, TDA will require a deposit of 50% of the estimated charges.
  • A person requesting public information may ask the governmental body to determine whether providing the information primarily benefits the general public, resulting in a waiver or reduction of charges.
  • A person requesting public information should submit timely payment for all mutually agreed charges. A governmental body can demand payment or obtain a security deposit before processing additional requests from a person with an overdue balance exceeding $100.



Information Withheld Due to an Exception

  • By the 10th business day after a governmental body receives your written request, the governmental body must:
    1. Request an Attorney General opinion and state which exceptions apply;
    2. Notify the requestor of the referral to the Attorney General; and,
    3. Notify third parties if the request involves their proprietary or other confidential information.
  • Failure to request an Attorney General opinion and notify the requestor within 10 business days will result in a presumption that the information is public unless a compelling reason to withhold it exists.
  • Requestors may send a letter to the Attorney General arguing for release, and may review the governmental body's correspondence to the Attorney General. If the correspondence would disclose the requested information, a redacted copy will be provided.
  • The Attorney General must issue a decision no later than the 45th working day from the day after the Attorney General received the request for a decision. The Attorney General may request an extension of 10 working days.
  • A governmental body may not ask the Attorney General to "reconsider" an opinion.


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