WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Farm Service Agency announced today that a firm under contract with its Kansas City Administrative Office inadvertently released the social security and tax identification numbers of approximately 350,000 participants in the tobacco buyout program as part of a response to a number of Freedom of Information Act requests.



The social security and tax identification numbers, which are protected from release under terms of the Privacy Act, were inadvertently sent to eight requesters on Jan. 19, 2006, along with program data authorized for release. FSA officials discovered the error on Feb. 9, 2006.



All eight FOIA requesters who received the data have agreed to make no disclosures of the privacy protected information, to return the disks containing the information, and to destroy all copies of any records derived from the data.



FSA is also taking steps to notify affected tobacco producers and quota holders, and is recommending they access their credit reports to assure that their personal information has not been used improperly and that these inadvertent releases have not compromised their individual credit records.



Individuals can find out how they may request annual free copies of their credit reports, as required by law, at www.annualcreditreport.com, or through the Federal Trade Commission's Web site at