7 CFR 15.68 - Ex parte communications.
(a) General. After proceedings have been commenced, any communication or discussion ex parte, as regards the merits of the proceeding or a factually related proceeding, between an employee of the Department involved in the decisional process and a person not employed by the Department, and any such communication or discussion between any employee of the Department, who is or has been engaged in any way in the investigation or prosecution of the proceeding or a factually related proceeding, and an employee of the Department who is involved or may be involved in the decisional process of a proceeding, except at a conference, hearing or review proceeding under these rules is improper and prohibited.
(b) Request for information. A request for information about the status of a proceeding without discussing issues or expressing points of view and inquiries with respect to procedural matters or an emergency request for an extension of time are not deemed ex parte communications. When practical all parties should be notified of any request for an extension of time. Communication between an applicant or recipient and the agency or the Secretary with respect to securing voluntary compliance with any requirement of subpart A of this part is not prohibited.
(c) Unsponsored written material. Letters expressing views or urging action and other unsponsored written material regarding matters in issue in a proceeding will be placed in the correspondence section of the docket of the proceeding. Such are not deemed part of the evidence or record.