How to Make a FOIA Request
In accordance with the Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA) and USDA regulations at 7 CFR, any person
can request access to NRCS records. The FOIA requires the NRCS to allow
the public to have access unless the information is exempt under the FOIA
from mandatory disclosure (e.g., classified national security, business
proprietary, personal privacy, investigative).
Your request must be in writing. Indicate that you are making a request
under the Freedom of Information Act, and address the request to the USDA
Natural Resources Conservation Service. If you are not sure which
agency within USDA has the information you want, send your request to the
USDA FOIA Officer at the following address:
USDA FOIA Service Center
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250
USDA FOIA Service Center email:
NRCS FOIA Service Center email: NRCSfoia@wdc.usda.gov
Identify the records you want as accurately as possible, with as much
detail that would be helpful for locating the information (subject matter,
date, place where the record was created, the person or office that
created it, the present custodian of the record, etc). A request may only
seek records that are in existence at the time that the FOIA request is
received, and may not require that new records be created in response to
Provide your phone number and mailing address so that NRCS employees
may contact you if needed (for clarification of your request, etc).
NRCS is authorized by law to recover the direct costs of providing
information to a FOIA requester. A requester may be required to pay fees
for searching, reviewing, and copying records. You will be notified in
advance if fees will exceed $25.
For fee purposes, the FOIA requires that requesters be placed in one of
the following four categories: (1) commercial use requesters; (2) news
media, (3) educational institution, noncommercial scientific institution,
and (4) all others. Commercial use requesters are charged the full direct
cost of search, review and duplication, associated with processing their
requests. Scientific, educational, and news media requesters are charged
the cost of duplication alone, except that the first 100 pages are
provided free of charge. All other requesters are charged the direct costs
of search and duplication, except that the first 2 hours of search and the
first 100 pages of duplications are free of charge. No review charges are
assessed for requesters in this last category.
Specify the fee category in which you feel your request falls. State
the maximum amount of fees that you are willing to pay, or include a
request for a fee waiver.
The FOIA permits agencies to waive fees if disclosure of the records is
in the public interest because it: (a) is likely to contribute
significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of
the government (Does the record concern the operations or activities of
the government? Is disclosure likely to contribute to the public
understanding of these operations and activities? Will that contribution
be significant?); and (b) is not primarily in the commercial interest of
Requests for fee waivers must be fully documented and justified by
written explanation. The U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees FOIA
compliance throughout the federal government, sets out a six-part test for
agencies to follow when evaluating a request for fee waivers.
Privacy Act: Under the Privacy Act (PA), a person may seek access to
records that are retrieved by that person's name or other personal
identifier, such as social security number or employee identification
number. Such records will be made available unless they fall within the
exemptions of the PA and the FOIA.
Detailed information concerning USDA policies and
procedures for obtaining access to information under the FOIA and the PA
is available in 7 CFR Part 1, Subpart A, or by calling the NRCS FOIA
Officer between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Mary A. Alston
FOIA/PA Program Manager
5601 Sunnyside Ave.
Beltsville, Maryland 20705-5000
Tel. (301) 504-2286
Fax. (301) 504-0424