Quality of Information: How to Request Correction of Information Disseminated by Rural Development

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a process that allows affected people to seek and obtain correction of information disseminated by USDA on or after October 1, 2002, regardless of when the information was first disseminated, that they believe does not comply with OMB or USDA Quality of Information Guidelines. People seeking a correction should follow the process described below.

These correction mechanisms are not intended to imply any rights of individuals to request amendment of their own records beyond those permitted by the Privacy Act of 1974 or other organization specific laws.

Information Subject to USDA's Quality of Information Guidelines

  • Except for the categories of information that are specifically exempted from coverage (see section), the guidelines apply to all information disseminated and initiated by USDA, and sponsored dissemination of information by USDA grantees, contractors, or cooperators on or after October 1, 2002, regardless of when the information was first disseminated.

  • The guidelines apply to all media, including printed, electronic, or other forms.

  • The guidelines apply not only to information that USDA generates, but also to information that USDA disseminates that was provided by or obtained from outside parties and which USDA adopts, endorses, or uses to formulate or support a regulation, guidance, or other agency decision or position.

  • Some information products released prior to October 1, 2002, continue to be used for decision-making or are relied on by USDA and the public as official, authoritative government information. This information is, in effect, constantly being re-disseminated and thus is subject to the guidelines. Previously released products that do not meet these criteria are considered archived information and thus are not subject to the guidelines.

These guidelines are not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legally binding regulations or mandates. The guidelines do not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity, by any party against the United States, its agencies (including USDA or any USDA agency or office), officers, or employees or any persons.

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Information Not Subject to USDA's Quality of Information Guidelines

Most of the categories of information listed below are exempted from coverage by OMB's guidelines. In the case of internal manuals and material presented to Congress that have been disseminated elsewhere, USDA is adding categories of information that the OMB guidelines do not specifically exempt. The following categories of information are not subject to USDA's Quality of Information Guidelines.

  • Views or opinions, where the presentation makes it clear that what is being offered is someone's opinion rather than fact.

  • Dissemination of information by Federal employees and recipients of grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts:
    • The guidelines do not apply to information disseminated by recipients of grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts unless a USDA agency or office represents the information as, or uses the information in support of, an official agency position; the grantee, cooperator, or contractor is disseminating the information at the request of the agency; or the grant or agreement requires USDA agency approval of dissemination of the information.
    • The guidelines do not apply to dissemination of any type of research by Federal employees and recipients of USDA grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts where the researcher, not USDA, decides whether and how to communicate and publish the research, does so in the same manner as his or her academic colleagues, and disseminates the research in a manner that indicates that the research does not represent USDA's official position (for example, by including an appropriate disclaimer). Distribution of research in this manner is not subject to the guidelines even if USDA retains ownership or other intellectual property rights because the Federal Government paid for the research.

  • Information for which distribution is intended to be limited to government employees, agency contractors, or grantees.

  • Information that is intended only for intra-agency or inter-agency use or sharing of government information, unless the receiving agency disseminates the information to the public.

  • Responses to requests for agency records under the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, or other similar law.

  • Press releases, fact sheets, press conferences, or similar communications in any medium that announce, support the announcement, or give public notice of information that USDA has disseminated elsewhere.

  • Public filings, unless USDA disseminates the information to the public in a manner that suggests that USDA endorses or adopts the information or indicates in its dissemination that the agency is using the information to formulate or support a regulation, guidance, or other decision or position.

  • Correspondence with individuals, persons, or entities (regardless of media, such as e-mail).

  • Subpoenas or adjudicative processes. Excluded from the scope of these guidelines are the findings and determinations that USDA makes in the course of adjudications involving specific parties. The exemption for adjudications is limited to adjudications that provide an opportunity to contest information quality in a timely manner. Because there are well-established procedural safeguards and rights to address the quality of factual allegations and adjudicatory decisions, and to provide persons with an opportunity to contest decisions, the guidelines do not impose any additional requirements on USDA during adjudicative proceedings and do not provide parties to such adjudicative proceedings any additional rights of challenge or appeal.

  • Archival information disseminated by USDA libraries or other similar USDA information repositories (e.g., inactive or historical materials in USDA libraries and other data collections).

  • Hyperlinks from USDA websites to information that others outside USDA disseminate.

  • Information presented to Congress as part of the legislative or oversight processes (e.g., testimony of USDA officials, information or drafting assistance provided to Congress in connection with pending or proposed legislation) that the agency has already disseminated to the public in some other way.

  • Procedural, operational, policy, and internal manuals prepared for USDA management and operations that are not primarily intended for public distribution.

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Before Filing a Formal Correction Request, Consult the Contact Persons Listed in Rural Development Reports and Products

Most Rural Development publications, reports, and data files include the names, telephone numbers, and/or e-mail addresses of knowledgeable staff who can help customers understand the information presented there and determine whether, in fact, there is an error that warrants action through the formal correction process. Customers should first consult the contact person listed in the product before filing a formal correction request. If no specific contact person is listed, customers should contact the agency.

Where to Submit a Formal Correction Request

Business and Cooperative Programs
Quality of Information Officer
USDA/RBS, Room 5045-S
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250-3201
E-Mail: jordan.lianides@wdc.usda.gov
Phone: (202) 720-1914
Fax: (202) 692-0275

Housing Programs
Housing Programs
Quality of Information Officer
USDA/RHS, Room 5014-S
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250-0701
E-Mail: lou.paulson@wdc.usda.gov Phone:
Phone:(202) 260-6553
Fax: (202) 690-0500

Utilities Programs
Quality of Information Officer
USDA/RUS, Room 4051-S
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250-1510
E-Mail: administrator@rus.usda.gov
Phone: (202) 720-9540
Fax: (202) 720-1725

Community Development Programs
Quality of Information Officer
USDA/OCD, Room 266
300 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20250-3203
E-Mail: CDPWebmaster@usda.gov
Phone: (202) 619-7980
Fax: (202) 401-7420

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Information That Should Be Submitted With a Correction Request

Correction requests should include:

  • A statement that the request for correction of information is being submitted under USDA's Quality of Information Guidelines.

  • The requestor's contact information.
    The name, mailing address, telephone number, fax number (if any), e-mail address (if any), and organizational affiliation (if any) of the person requesting the correction.

  • A description of the information to correct.
    The name of the USDA publication, report or data product; the issue date or other identifying information such as the URL/address of the web page; and a detailed description that clearly identifies the specific information contained in the publication, report or data product for which a correction is being sought.

  • An explanation of non-compliance with the OMB and/or USDA Information Quality Guidelines.
    An explanation that describes how the information fails to meet either the OMB or USDA guidelines.

  • An explanation of the effect of the alleged error.
    An explanation that describes how the requestor uses the information in question and how he or she is affected by the alleged error.

  • A recommendation and justification for how the information should be corrected.
    The requestor should state specifically how the information should be corrected and explain why the corrections should be made. A request for correction that is specific and provides evidence to support the need for correction is likely to be more persuasive than a request that is general, unfocused, or that simply indicates disagreement with the information in question.

This guidance for the content of correction requests is not intended to constitute a set of legally binding requirements. However, Rural Development may not be able to process, in a timely fashion or at all, requests that omit one or more of the requested elements. Requestors bear the "burden of proof" with respect to the necessity for correction as well as with respect to the type of correction they seek. Rural Development will base its decision on the merits of the information provided by the requestor.

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Rural Development's Review of the Correction Request

The correction request will be processed by the Rural Development agency that disseminated the information or information product in question. Based on the explanation and evidence submitted with the correction request, Rural Development will conduct a thorough review of the information being challenged, the processes used to create and disseminate the information, and the conformity of the information and those processes with both OMB's and USDA's Quality of Information Guidelines.

After Rural Development has completed its review, the agency will determine whether a correction is warranted and, if so, what corrective action it will take. Rural Development is not required to change, or in any way alter, the content or status of information simply because a request has been made. If duplicate correction requests are received, Rural Development will consolidate them into one request for response. Rural Development will dismiss requests for correction of information that are not subject to USDA's Quality of Information Guidelines, are frivolous or in bad faith, and requests that refer to issues that have been the subject of prior complaints which have been resolved.

In determining whether to respond to a correction request, Rural Development will also consider whether the information or the request for correction is stale. If Rural Development did not disseminate, or continue to disseminate, this information recently (i.e., within one year of the request), or it does not have a continuing significant impact on the agency's projects, policy decisions or on important private sector decisions, we may regard the information as stale for purposes of responding to the correction request.

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Rural Development's Response to the Correction Request

After the Rural Development agency or office has made its final determination pertaining to a request for correction of information, that agency will respond to the requestor in writing by letter, e-mail, or fax, normally within 60 calendar days of receipt of the complaint. The response will explain the findings and the actions Rural Development will take (if any) in response to the complaint.

If the request requires more than 60 calendar days to resolve, Rural Development will inform the requestor within that time period that more time is required, the reasons for the delay, and an estimated decision date.

Correction Requests Concerning Information for Which Rural Development has Sought Public Comment

Information for which Rural Development has sought public comment includes, but is not limited to: notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM); advance notices of proposed rulemaking; studies cited in an NPRM; regulatory evaluations or cost-benefit analyses pertaining to a NPRM; environmental assessments, environmental impact analyses and other documents prepared under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA); land and resource management plans and other documents prepared under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA); and notices of availability and requests for comment on risk assessments.

If the correction request reaches Rural Development during the comment period for that action, the agency's response will normally be incorporated in the next document it issues concerning the matter. For example, if a correction request pertains to a document referenced in a NPRM, the response normally would be provided in the final rule. Rural Development will notify the requestor that it will respond to the request in this manner. If the correction request reaches the agency too late to be addressed in this manner, the request will be processed in the same way as described above for non-rulemaking situations.

In cases where Rural Development disseminates a study, analysis, or other information prior to the final agency action or information product, requests for correction will be considered prior to the final agency action or information product, in those cases where the agency has determined that an earlier response would not unduly delay issuance of the agency action or information product and the requestor has shown a reasonable likelihood of suffering actual harm from the dissemination if Rural Development does not resolve the complaint prior to the final agency action or information product.

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Opportunity to Request Reconsideration of Rural Development's Decision

If the requestor disagrees with Rural Development's denial of the request or with the corrective action the agency intends to take, he or she may file a request for reconsideration. The Rural Development agency that processed the correction request will provide instructions to the requestor in its final determination on how to request reconsideration of the decision.

Procedure for Requesting Reconsideration of Rural Development's Decision

People who wish to file a request for reconsideration should submit the request by letter, fax, or e-mail to the Reconsideration Official identified in the final determination of the correction request the requestor receives. For requests for reconsideration that involve influential scientific, financial, or statistical information, regulatory information, or issues of a controversial nature, USDA will designate a panel of officials to reconsider the decision. Typically, the panel would include the Reconsideration Official from the Rural Development agency that made the initial determination and two members from other USDA agencies.

People requesting reconsideration should submit written material to support their case for reconsideration, a copy of the information originally submitted to support the correction request, and a copy of Rural Development's response. Requests for reconsideration must be filed with the Reconsideration Official (postmarked, shipped by an overnight delivery service, or sent by e-mail) within 45 days after the date that Rural Development sends its decision on the original correction request. Requests for reconsideration filed after the 45-day deadline may be denied as not timely.

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USDA Review of the Request for Reconsideration

The Reconsideration Official (or panel) will ensure that the initial review of the correction request was conducted with due diligence. The Reconsideration Official (or panel) will review the material submitted in support of the request for reconsideration, the material submitted with the original correction request, and the results of Rural Development's investigation of the matter, to arrive at a decision regarding the reconsideration request.

If the reconsideration request involves information for which Rural Development has sought public comment and the agency has an existing process for handling reconsideration requests of the final rule or similar regulatory action, Rural Development will use that process. Otherwise, the reconsideration request will be handled the same as information for which Rural Development has not sought public comment.

USDA Response to the Request for Reconsideration

After the Reconsideration Official (or panel) has made a decision, the Official will respond to the requestor by letter, e-mail, or fax. The response will explain the Reconsideration Official's (or panel's) decision and the actions Rural Development will take (if any) in response to the reconsideration request. Rural Development will respond to all appeal requests within 60 calendar days of receipt. If the request requires more than 60 calendar days to resolve, the agency will inform the requestor that more time is required, indicate the reason why, and provide an estimated decision date.

Public Disclosure of Correction Requests and Reconsideration Requests

Rural Development will post requests for corrections of information, requests for reconsideration, and actions taken in response on this Quality of Information site. The site will include information on who requested the correction, the nature of the request, any specific corrections made, the reason they were made, and any appropriate supporting documents.

Privacy Act Statement

Rural Development is authorized to obtain certain information under Section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Public Law No. 106-554, codified at 44 U.S.C. 3516, note). Rural Development needs information to process the correction request and allow the agency to reply accordingly. This information is needed to respond to the requestor and initiate follow-up contact with the requestor if required. Requestors should not send Rural Development their Social Security Number. Requestors are advised that they do not have to furnish the information, but failure to do so may prevent their request from being processed. The information requestors furnish is almost never used for any purpose other than to process and respond to their request. However, Rural Development may disclose information to a Congressional office in response to an inquiry made on behalf of the requestor, to the Department of Justice, a court, other tribunal when the information is relevant and necessary to litigation, or to a contractor or other Federal agency to help accomplish a function related to this process.

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