(a) Any person who wishes to inspect or obtain copies of any record of any agency of the Department shall submit a request in writing and address the request to the official designated in regulations promulgated by that agency. The requester may ask for a fee waiver. All such requests for records shall be deemed to have been made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, regardless of whether the request specifically mentions the Freedom of Information Act. To facilitate processing of a request, the requester should place the phrase “FOIA REQUEST” in capital letters on the front of the envelope or on the cover sheet of the facsimile transmittal.
(b) A request must reasonably describe the records to enable agency personnel to locate them with reasonable effort. Where possible, a requester should supply specific information regarding dates, titles, names of individuals, names of offices, and names of agencies or other organizations that may help identify the records. If the request relates to a matter in pending litigation, the requester should identify the court and its location.
(c) If an agency determines that a request does not reasonably describe the records, the agency shall inform the requester of this fact and extend the requester an opportunity to clarify the request or to confer promptly with knowledgeable agency personnel to attempt to identify the records the requester is seeking. The “date of receipt” in such instances, for purposes of § 1.13, shall be the date of receipt of the amended or clarified request.
(d) If a request for records or a fee waiver made under this subpart is denied, the requester shall have the right to appeal the denial. Requesters also may appeal agency determinations of a requester's status for purposes of fee levels under sec. 5 of appendix A to this subpart. All appeals must be in writing and addressed to the official designated in regulations promulgated by the agency which denied the request. To facilitate processing of an appeal, the requester should place the phrase “FOIA APPEAL” in capital letters on the front of the envelope or on the cover sheet of the fax transmittal.
(e) Requests that are not addressed to a specific agency in USDA, or which pertain to more than one USDA agency, or which are sent to the wrong agency of USDA, should be forwarded to the Department's FOIA Officer in the Office of Communications, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250.
(f) The Department FOIA Officer will determine which agency or agencies should process the request, and, where necessary, refer the request to the appropriate agency or agencies. The Department FOIA Officer will also notify the requester of the referral and of the name of each agency to which the request has been referred.
(g) A request will be properly received when it is in the possession of the component agency that has responsibility for maintaining the requested records.
(h) Each agency shall develop and maintain a record of all written requests and appeals received in that agency. The record shall include the names of the requester; a brief summary of the information requested; whether the request or appeal was granted, denied, or partially denied; the exemption from mandatory disclosure under 5 U.S.C. 552(b) upon which any denial was based; and the amount of any fees associated with the request or appeal.