“Barely Plausible” Privacy Claims against Farm Service Agency Allowed to Proceed to Discovery.

 Plaintiff filed his action against the Farm Service Agency (FSA), alleging that an FSA employee violated state and federal privacy laws by disclosing private information to plaintiff’s former tenant. Plaintiff leased 110 acres of farmland to the tenant under a lease that became voidable in the event that plaintiff sold his property.  In March of 2011, plaintiff contacted his tenant to inform him that the land was no longer available for lease because plaintiff had sold the property. At some point, an FSA agent told the tenant that plaintiff sold only 40 acres of the parcel and that plaintiff had leased the remaining 70 acres to another party. The tenant filed a breach of contract action against the plaintiff, which the plaintiff won. The plaintiff then filed his action, alleging that the FSA employee had violated Wis. Stat. §995.50(2)(c) and 5 U.S.C. §552a by disclosing the information. The defendant sought dismissal of the action, alleging that the information allegedly disclosed was publically available. Finding that plaintiff had stated a “barely plausible claim,” the court denied the motion to dismiss, allowing the claims to continue through discovery.  The court did dismiss plaintiff’s separate claim under the Food Conservation and Energy Act outright.  Mitchell v. USDA Farm Service Agency, No. 13-cv-500-bbc, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46884 (W.D. Wis. April 4, 2014).

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