USDA – The Freedom of Information Act


[Opening music] Are you looking for
information from the USDA? The Freedom of Information
Act, or FOIA, is a law that provides any
person access to Federal agency records, except to the extent that
such agency records or portions of such agency
records are protected from disclosure by one or more of
the nine FOIA exemptions. Filing a FOIA request
is not difficult, however you should
keep in mind these three things
before getting started. First, the records you seek may
already be publicly available at www.usda.gov USDA’S website has a
wealth of information about popular topics,
public initiatives and the Secretary’s priorities. Our website also allows
you to delve into the details of each of the
Department’s component agencies programs. In sum, you might be able
to find what you need, when you need it, at your
convenience without filing a FOIA request. Second, be aware that
the FOIA does not require federal agencies to
analyze agency records, answer written questions
in response to Agency records, or create Agency
records in response to a FOIA. Third, the USDA is a large
department, employing thousands of people
in every capacity. It has no central filing
system or computerized index of all the information
maintained by all of its agencies. Therefore specific details
regarding the subject of your request such as key
terms, phrases or names, can make the difference
between getting what you want and getting
misunderstood. For example, if you know
the number of the grant or contract you’re
requesting, the author, or recipient of the
agency records, please share this with us. Also, if available,
please provide the dates that will be
applicable for search. For example, if you’re
looking for information about a particular program or a
USDA policy determination that took place in the
summer of 2011. Please explain you’re
requesting information from June 2011
through August 2011. The Department has several
ways in place for you to file a FOIA request. You can mail or fax it,
or send it by email. However, we recommended
that you submit your FOIA request online via our
public access link, or PAL system. When you submit your FOIA
via PAL, you can check the status of your FOIA
request on line and receive the records you
are requesting directly from the system. You may access PAL at.>Before submitting
your FOIA request, you must choose
where to send it, because the USDA is a
decentralized Department with each individual
agency maintaining its own agency records. It is not possible to
send your request to a single employee at
headquarters central. Instead you will need to
direct your request to the agency or
agencies that maintain the agency records that
you’re looking for. How do you know who
has these records? If you do not know who to
send your FOIA request to, we recommend visiting.>Go to the bottom
of the page under Freedom of Information
Act servicing centers. If you leave your mouse
over any servicing center listed for a short
period of time, a brief description
of the agency and its mission
will appear. If after reviewing the
description and missions of the agency, it is still
unclear which USDA agency may have responsive records,
please send a request to [email protected]. Currently, we do not
offer the capability of submitting a FOIA to
multiple USDA agencies at one time. However, you may submit
the same request to multiple USDA agencies by
entering each individual Agency request as a new
FOIA request, if you need it the same information
from more than one agency. Once you determine where
to send your FOIA request, please be sure to include
enough information about yourself to enable the
FOIA process to work. We do not need your
drivers’ license, Social Security number,
Social Security card or other information. We will however, need your
contact information, along with any documents
authorizing you to receive information related to another party if applicable. Your contact
information is critical. We need this information
so that we may contact you should we need
clarification from you regarding your
FOIA request. We may also need this
information in order to contact you to discuss the
fees associated with your FOIA request and
payment arrangements. Most importantly, we will
need this to deliver our response to your request. When Congress passed the
FOIA, it decided that the public should help
defray part of the cost of processing
FOIA requests. The fees are
generally minimal. However, FOIA
requesters requiring, let’s say for example,
substantial reproduction costs may expect higher fees. Additionally, the
USDA does not bill you when your FOIA fees
do not exceed $25, or if you qualify
for a fee waiver. Who is able to qualify
for a fee waiver? Generally speaking,
members of the media, and others who are able to
demonstrate that the records they are seeking
will make a substantial contribution to the
public’s understanding of the activities and
operations of USDA. For more information on
fees, you may want to consult the USDA’s FOIA
regulations in Section 6(a)(1) of 7 CFR
Part 1 Appendix A, otherwise it is best to indicate in the request if you’re willing to pay any
FOIA fees and if so, how much. Otherwise, the USDA will
need to contact you should it determine the
processing your FOIA request will generate FOIA
fees in excess of $25. To recap, here are our
recommendations for getting the requested
information quickly and as efficiently
as possible. First, check the USDA
website to ensure that what you’re looking for
is not already posted. Second, find the agency or
agencies that maintain the records you are seeking www.dm.usda.gov/foia/. Log on to PAL at.>- And create your
user profile. Click on the link to the
agency or agencies that maintain the records
you’re looking for. Third, as clearly as
possible, describe what you are seeking. Fourth, let USDA know if
you’re willing to pay FOIA fees without further
notification. Lastly, monitor your
email, or your home mailbox for responsive
records to your FOIA. Before you know it, the
records you are looking for, will be either be
in your email inbox or mailbox. [Closing music – credits]

2 thoughts on “USDA – The Freedom of Information Act

  • I am willing to pay FOIA fees, can the state of California refused Senior Citizens food stamp benefits because they receive SSI benefits that are less than Federal Government food stamp benefits. Can I seek repayment of normal food payments to be repaid to me by the State of California mis- evaluatiing me as SSI dependant unfairly.
    Benefits on federal level based against less benefits paid by State SSI are unfair benefits that should be reevaluated. I am a senior citizen starving food because food stamp Federal benefits pays more to me than State benefits.. I do not want State of California SSI benefits. I want to be evaluated by my business income which is zero State non-profit business Senior Citizen (emergency dependant family).

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