How to make a FOIA request
FOIA requests for the REE agencies must be in writing and are accepted by mail, facsimile, or e-mail.
FOIA requests can also be submitted through the USDA FOIA Public Access Website found at: https://efoia-pal.usda.gov/palMain.aspx. This website provides the public with information on how to obtain access to records maintained by the USDA and includes links to USDA Agency FOIA contacts and USDA Agencies/Offices and Mission Areas, along with instructions on submitting multiple agency requests. The USDA FOIA Program website can be found at: http://www.dm.usda.gov/foia.htm.
In making your request, it is important to identify the records you want as accurately as possible, with as much detail that would be helpful for locating the information. The more precise and accurate the request, the more likely you are to get a complete response. We suggest you include the following:
A request may only seek records that are in existence at the time that the FOIA request is received. The FOIA does not require that new records be created in response to the request and does not require agencies to do research for you, to analyze data, or to answer written questions.
Fees: Agencies are authorized by law to recover the direct costs of providing information to a FOIA requester. The FOIA requires that requesters be placed in one of the following three categories:
The costs associated with searching for and reviewing records responsive to a request are: the salary rate of the employee conducting the search, plus 16 percent of the employee’s basic pay; or where a homogeneous class of personnel is used exclusively, $10.00 per hour for clerical time and $20.00 per hour for supervisory or professional time. Duplication of pages 8 ½” x 14” or smaller is $0.20 per page. Duplication of pages larger than 8 ½” x 14” is $0.50 per page. Certifications are $5.00 each.
No fee will be charged if the amount is less than $25. In cases where no documents are located, the Agency is entitled to charge the requester for any applicable search time involved.
Fee Waivers: Fee waivers may be granted when disclosure of the documents is in the public interest and is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the Government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
When making a fee waiver request, the following six factors must be addressed in sufficient detail:
Appeals: A person whose initial FOIA request for documents has been denied, either in part or in whole, or who has received a no records response, or whose request for a fee waiver has been denied, has the right to appeal the denial to the appropriate REE administrator within 45 days after receipt of notification of the denial.
Exemptions: A request for records may be denied if the requested record contains information that falls into one or more of the 9 exemptions listed below. If the requested record contains both exempt and nonexempt information, the nonexempt portions that may reasonably be segregated from the exempt portions will be released to the requester.
Time Limits: Agencies are required to respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. This period does not begin until the request is actually received by the FOIA office. In specific situations, an additional 10-day extension may be granted in responding to a request. The FOIA provides for extensions of initial time limits under unusual circumstances, which are defined as (1) the need to search for and collect records from separate offices; (2) the need to examine a voluminous amount of records required by the request; and (3) the need to consult with another agency or agency component.