The Beginner’s Guide to USDA FOIA Requests

Freedom of Information Act The Beginner's Guide to USDA FOIA Requests

Everything You Should Know About USDA FOIA Requests

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of many federal agencies covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Since 1966, this law has enabled citizens to demand, inspect, and copy the records managed by government bodies, unless they fall under a few FOIA exemptions.

If you haven’t had any experience with requesting public records so far, we can teach you all about composing your first USDA FOIA request. Our articles explain the meaning of the FOIA in detail and answer all related dilemmas and questions.

Which Institutions Belong to the USDA?

The USDA consists of 14 agencies:


  • Forest Service
  • Rural Development
  • Farm Service Agency
  • Risk Management Agency
  • Food and Nutrition Service
  • Foreign Agricultural Service
  • Economic Research Service
  • Agricultural Marketing Service
  • Agricultural Research Service
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture
  • National Resources Conservation Service
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

What Does Your USDA FOIA Request Need To Contain?

Your USDA FOIA request needs to be in writing so that you can provide a precise description of the records in question. The USDA doesn’t provide any templates, which means you must do your best to compose a letter clearly and concisely.

Here are the details you should include in your request:

  1. Personal details
  2. Full names of the authors of the requested records if possible
  3. Detailed description of the requested information
  4. Approximate fees you are ready to pay for the desired records

Requesting Public Records Under the USDA FOIA by Yourself

All USDA agencies that hold public records have a specific mail and email address to which you can submit your FOIA request. All you need to do is pick the one whose records you need and send your petition. 

The table below shows a few examples of USDA FOIA request contact information:

USDA Agency

Address Email

Food and Nutrition Service

Kevin Lynch

FOIA Officer

Braddock Metro Center II

1320 Braddock Place

Alexandria, VA 22314

FOIA-FNS@usda.gov 

Forest Service

Margaret Scofield

Acting FOIA Officer

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Yates Building

Stop 1150

Washington, DC 20250

SM.FS.WOFOIA@usda.gov 

Rural Development

Lolita Barnes

National FOIA/PA Officer

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

South Building

Stop 0706

Washington, DC 20250-0706

ssd.FOIA@wdc.usda.gov 

You can find contact information for all other USDA agencies on the official USDA Departmental Management website. 

The department offers an online request form too, which is the same for all agencies. You can use this service by following the instructions below:

  1. Visit the FOIA Public Access Link (PAL)
  2. Create an account on the platform
  3. Select the option for submitting an online form
  4. Choose the agency to which you want to send your petition
  5. Complete the required information
  6. Submit your request

How To Check the Status of Your USDA FOIA Request

You can check the status of your submitted request on the FOIA Public Access Link. Here’s what the procedure looks like:

  1. Go to the FOIA PAL website
  2. Log into your account 
  3. Find the Check Request Status in the toolbar
  4. Provide your FOIA request tracking code

Bring Your FOIA Request to Perfection With DoNotPay

Composing a FOIA request by yourself has never been an easy undertaking—every detail matters. Failing to include all the required details and not doing your best to describe what you need is reason enough to expect rejection. 

If you don’t feel like writing a request letter is something you would do well, we can swoop in and save the day! DoNotPay has created a convenient FOIA feature that will make your request procedure much easier and quicker.

You don’t need to look for specific law regulations anymore or bother to explain too much. All you need to do is answer a few questions our chatbot asks you, and our app will create and send a request letter in your name!

Here’s how our service works:

  1. Visit DoNotPay in your web browser
  2. Locate the FOIA service by typing keywords in the search box—FOIA, public records, etc.
  3. Pick State Agency or Federal Agency, depending on the nature of your request
  4. Enter the institution name and the names of the records you are requesting
  5. Indicate whether you need a fee waiver or expedited processing

We will make sure your request reaches the chosen institution in record time!

Get the Best Out of DoNotPay’s Law Database

Besides helping you with your USDA FOIA request, DoNotPay can submit petitions to numerous state and federal institutions across the USA, including:

Don’t miss our easy-to-follow procedures for demanding Army, Navy, police, and Air Force records in Texas, Maryland, Michigan, New York, or West Virginia. Our learning center awaits you with valuable guides on:

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