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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act or FOIA provides the public the right to request access to FPAC records. FPAC will disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.

Before making a request, first look to see if the information you are interested in is already publicly available. You can find a lot of useful information on a range of FPAC topics on our website. You can also search our FOIA Reading Rooms for frequently requested information we have already posted online.

If the information you want is not publicly available, you can submit a FOIA request to the FPAC’s FOIA Office. The request simply must be in writing and reasonably describe the records you seek. The more specific a request is (dates, time frames, subject, location), the more responsive FPAC can be. If necessary, FPAC will contact a requester to refine or clarify the request. You can find more details about making a request on our Submitting a FOIA Request webpage.

FPAC offers several ways to submit a FOIA request.

Submit via Email or Direct Mail

You can submit a FOIA request via email or mail for any one of FPAC’s agencies using the address below.

FPAC-BC FOIA Team
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 6618-S
Washington, DC 20250-9410
Email: SM.FP.FOIA@usda.gov

Submit Online via USDA’s Public Access Link (PAL)

FOIA requests may be submitted electronically on the USDA’s Public Access Link (PAL). PAL is a web portal that allows you to create, submit, and track the status of your FOIA request(s). To use the system, you must register and create a username and password. Please note that the portal does not currently provide the ability to submit a single FOIA request to multiple agencies. You can, however, easily submit the same request to multiple agencies.

Agency Reading Rooms

Each FPAC agency maintains a Freedom of Information Act (eFOIA) Electronic Reading Room. The Electronic Reading Room contains documents specifically identified for inclusion by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as well as documents for which the agency has received multiple FOIA requests. Below are links to each agency's eFOIA Reading Room

Additional FOIA Information

FOIA Background

The FOIA (5 U.S.C. § 552) was enacted in 1966, took effect on July 4, 1967 and is intended to make all existing federal government records available to the public unless they are protected from disclosure by any of the nine FOIA exemptions or release of the information would cause a specific harm. Any person, except a fugitive from the law, has a right to request access to federal agency records. FOIA provides two levels of administrative review, initial and appellate. Upon the exhaustion of administrative remedies, a requester may seek judicial review.

Definition of Records

A record is a data compilation, such as books, papers, maps, and photographs, machine readable, electronic format, or other documents regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States government and in their possession and control at the time a FOIA request is received. In response to requests, the FOIA does not require agencies to create records, conduct investigations, render opinions, provide subjective evaluations, answer questions, or develop information.

Entities not subject to the FOIA

The FOIA does not apply to records created by or in the possession of the following entities:

  • Executive Office of the President;
  • Any elected official of the U.S. government (i.e., Congress);
  • Officers of the federal Judiciary branch (i.e., judges);
  • Private citizens;
  • Private companies or associations;
  • Government contractors;
  • Government grant holders; and
  • State or local governments

Response Time

The FOIA requires that agencies respond to requests within 20 working days excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. This period begins once FPAC-BC FOIA office and/ or Agencies is in receipt of the request and once any issues such as processing fees are resolved. FPAC-BC FOIA Office and/or Agencies written acknowledgment of the request will provide contact information in order, for the requester to check the status of their request. The FOIA provides the right to invoke a ten- working day extension when responsive records are voluminous, require two or more offices to confer about the records, and/or are located off-site.

Handling Expedited of FOIA Requests

The FOIA allows that under certain conditions a requester may be entitled to have their request processed on an expedited basis (within 10 calendar days) from the date on which the request was received. The requester must demonstrate one of the following compelling needs:

  • Failure to obtain requested records on an expedited basis could pose a threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; or
  • The requester is primarily engaged in disseminating the information and has an urgency to inform the public on an actual or alleged federal government activity.

USDA’s FOIA Fees

There is no initial fee required to submit a FOIA request, but the FPAC is authorized to charge fees to requesters in order to recover the direct costs of search, review and duplication of requested records. If the total costs of supplying the requested information are less than $25, we will waive any applicable fees.

FOIA Request on Your Own Records

All requests are processed under both the FOIA and the Privacy Act in order, to provide greater disclosure. If you are seeking records on yourself, you will be required to verify your identity. This verification is required in order to protect your privacy and to ensure that private information about you is not disclosed inappropriately to someone else. Whenever you request information about yourself you will be asked to provide either a notarized statement or a statement signed under penalty of perjury stating that you are the person who you say you are. You may fulfill this requirement by providing your full name, current address, and date and place of birth and either (1) have your signature on your request letter witnessed by a notary, or (2) include the following statement immediately above the signature on your request letter: "I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on [date]." If you request information about yourself and do not follow one of these procedures, your request cannot be processed.

FOIA Resources