5 oldest FOIA requests (USDA)

Jason Smathers filed this request with the Department of Agriculture of the United States of America.
Status
Completed

Communications

From: Jason Smathers

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

All records referencing the five oldest FOIA and Privacy Act requests which are still being processed that contain remarks, comments, notes, explanations, etc. made by your personnel or contractors about the processing of these requests (and appeals, if appropriate), the invocation of exemptions, or related matters. This is to include any analysts' notes made during the processing of the requests, any standard worksheets completed by the analysts, any justifications for exemption invocations or other supporting documentation provided to the Appeals Authority, and any correspondence referencing the requests, including tasking orders, emails, and coordination documentation. However, any records previously released to the original requesters in unredacted form may be excluded from this request. Additionally, please provide the initial request letters for the 5 oldest open FOIA/PA requests.

When processing this request, please note that the D.C. Circuit has previously held that agencies have a duty to construe the subject material of FOIA requests liberally to ensure responsive records are not overlooked. See Nation Magazine, Washington Bureau v. U.S. Customs Service, 71 F.3d 885, 890 (D.C. Cir. 1995). Accordingly, you are hereby instructed that the term “record” includes, but is not limited to: 1) all email communications to or from any individual within your agency; 2) memoranda; 3) inter-agency communications; 4) sound recordings; 5) tape recordings; 6) video or film recordings; 7) photographs; 8) notes; 9) notebooks; 10) indices; 11) jottings; 12) message slips; 13) letters or correspondence; 14) telexes; 15) telegrams; 16) facsimile transmissions; 17) statements; 18) policies; 19) manuals or binders; 20) books; 21) handbooks; 22) business records; 23) personnel records; 24) ledgers; 25) notices; 26) warnings; 27) affidavits; 28) declarations under penalty of perjury; 29) unsworn statements; 30) reports; 31) diaries; or 32) calendars, regardless of whether they are handwritten, printed, typed, mechanically or electronically recorded or reproduced on any medium capable of conveying an image, such as paper, CDs, DVDs, or diskettes.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Jason Smathers
Filed via MuckRock.com
E-mail (Preferred): requests@muckrock.com
Daytime: (617) 299-1832
For mailed responses, please address:
MuckRock
185 Beacon St. #3
Somerville, MA 02143

From: USDA FOIA Service Center

Dear Mr. Smathers:

The USDA FOIA Service Center is in receipt of your FOIA request (below). Please be advised that we require some clarification of the request and which agency or agencies of USDA you wish to respond. No action can be taken on this request until we received clarification with regard to its intended respondent agency or agencies at USDA.

Please contact us as soon as possible via email in order to perfect this request.

Sincerely,

Joseph Tangredi
USDA FOIA Service Center

From: Jason Smathers

Please have the following USDA agencies respond:
AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE, ANIMAL & PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, DEPARTMENTAL MANAGEMENT, FARM SERVICE AGENCY, FOOD, NUTRITION & CONSUMER SERVICES, FOOD SAFETY & INSPECTION SERVICE, FOREIGN AGRICULTURAL SERVICE, FOREST SERVICE, GRAIN INSPECTION, PACKERS & STOCKYARDS, NATIONAL APPEALS DIVISION, NATIONAL FINANCE CENTER, NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE, OFFICE OF BUDGET & PROGRAM ANALYSIS, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER, OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS, OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL, OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL, OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY, RISK MANAGEMENT AGENCY, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, RESEARCH, EDUCATION & ECONOMICS, and USDA FOIA Service Center.

Thanks,
Jason Smathers

From: USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Dear Mr. Muckrock :

This acknowledges receipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. This was received by this office on January 5, 2011. As we understand it you are requesting a copy of All records referencing the five oldest FOIA and Privacy Act requests which are still being processed that contain remarks, comments, notes, explanations, etc. made by FNS personnel or contractors about the processing of these requests (and appeals, if appropriate), the invocation of exemptions, or related matters.


Your FOIA request has been assigned case number FOIA-FNS-11-43. Please use the assigned case number when contacting this office for information pertaining to your FOIA request. This will help us assist you in a timely manner.

In accordance with the FOIA, you should receive a response from this office within 20 working days. If you have any questions please contact me at the information below.

If you have any questions please contact me at 703-305-2963 or foia@fns.usda.gov.

Sincerely,


Todd
Freedom of Information Act Analyst


Todd Walls
FNS FOIA Analyst
Information Management Branch
USDA Food and Nutrition Service
(703) 305-2963
todd.walls@fns.usda.gov
IMB Customer Survey

From: Office of Budget and Program Analysis

Jason Smathers
MuckRock
185 Beacon St. #3
Somerville, MA 02143

Dear Mr. Smathers,

This e-mail is in reply to the below Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request received by the Office of Budget and Program Analysis (OBPA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on January 5, 2011.

Under FOIA, you requested "All records referencing the five oldest FOIA and Privacy Act requests which are still being processed that contain remarks, comments, notes, explanations, etc. made by your personnel or contractors about the processing of these requests (and appeals, if appropriate), the invocation of exemptions, or related matters. Additionally, please provide the initial request letters for
the 5 oldest open FOIA/PA requests."

The Office of Budget and Program Analysis does not have any documents that are responsive to your FOIA request since we do not have any open FOIA or Privacy Act requests. OBPA is a small agency and only receives a handful of requests each fiscal year. For instance, your request is the second request we've received to-date in fiscal year 2011.

Please note that you have the right to appeal the scope of the search. The deadline for filing an appeal is 45 days from the date of this letter. If you elect to file an appeal, please include the words "FOIA APPEAL" on the front of the envelope. You should direct your appeal to:

Donald K. Bice, Deputy Director of Budget, Legislation, and Regulatory Systems
FOIA Public Liaison
Office of Budget and Program Analysis
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Rm. 102-E Whitten Building
Washington, D.C. 20250

Please also note that each Agency will make an independent determination on fees.

If I may be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,
Julie Hetrick

U.S Department of Agriculture
Office of Budget and Program Analysis
Freedom of Information Act Officer
(202) 720-1269

From: National Finance Center

Dear Mr. Smathers,

Today, the National Finance Center (NFC) received your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the United States Department of Agriculture, FOIA Office and assigned it reference number RMO 11001. Please note that NFC has no outstanding FOIA requests. Accordingly, we do not have any records that are responsive to your request.

Sincerely,

Darlene Irving
Acting FOIA Coordinator

From: United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development

From: Agriculture Marketing Service

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Officer

Good morning Mr. Smathers. Please find attached my letter acknowledging receipt of your FOIA request dated December 21, 2010, which was received by the Agricultural Marketing Service on January 5, 2011. This letter is also being mailed to you today.

This request may involve voluminous documents, and as a member of the media, you would be charged for duplication only, after the first 100 pages.

Valerie L. Emmer-Scott
AMS Freedom of Information Act Officer
Privacy Act Officer
Legislative and Regulatory Review Staff
Stop 0202, Room 2622-S
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Phone: (202) 720-2498
Fax: (202) 690-3767

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Officer

From: FOIA/PA Office, REE, USDA

Jason Smathers
MuckRock

This is in response to your December 20 and 21, 2010, emails addressed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Office in which you are requesting documents pursuant to the FOIA. Your request for documents maintained by the Research, Education, and Economics agencies has been forwarded to this office for response. Your request was received in this office on January 10, and assigned FOIA No. 11-037.

We are currently processing your request for documents. If you have any questions concerning your request, please contact this office directly at 301-504-1655 or via email at stasia.hutchison@ars.usda.gov.

Sincerely,

Stasia Hutchison

Stasia Hutchison
FOIA/PA Office, REE, USDA
5601 Sunnyside Avenue,
Room 1-2248, Mail Stop 5128
Beltsville, MD 20705-5128
stasia.hutchison@ars.usda.gov
301-504-1655 Telephone

From: Risk Management Agency

REF: Freedom of Information Act Tracking No. 11-28


Dear Mr. Smathers:


The Risk Management Agency has received your Freedom of Information Act request e-mailed December 21, 2010 to the USDA FOIA Office and received in this office on January 5, 2011. We have assigned your request as tracking number: 11-28. Please use this tracking number in all future communication involving this request.

You have requested all records referencing the five oldest FOIA and Privacy Act requests which are still being processed that contain information as requested in your e-mail. In addition, you have requested a fee waiver. Your request will not require a fee waiver to process. Therefore, there will be no fees associated with your request.
Your request is being handled under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552 http://www.rma.usda.gov/web/foia.html.

We process requests on a first-in, first-out basis. The actual processing time will depend upon the complexity of the request and whether or not it involves sensitive or voluminous records, or extensive searches and/or consultations. We also process requests on a multi-track basis. This means that simple requests, requiring minimal effort to respond, are processed in one track, and more voluminous and complex requests are processed in another track. We have placed your request in the Simple Track.

If you have questions concerning your request, please call me on 202-690-5701.

Sincerely,



Terrie L. Ray
FOIA/Privacy Officer
Executive Planning & Administrative
Support Branch

From: National Forest Service

From: USDA, Marketing and Regulatory Programs

From: Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service

Mr. Smathers,

I left you a voicemail message today regarding your FOIA request. I wanted to talk with you to further clarification/understanding on your FOIA.

Tonya G. Woods, Director
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service
Legislative and Public Affairs - FOIA & Privacy Acts Office
Telephone: (301) 734-8296
Fax: (301) 734-5941

From: Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Office

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Office

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Office

From: Agriculture Marketing Service

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Office

Mr. Smathers, in reference to this request (for documents relating to the five oldest pending FOIA requests and Privacy Act requests), would you be willing to narrow the scope of your request, in particular, with reference to e-mails?

We have two pending requests that go back 1 ½ years to just over 2 years. Your request would involve a lengthy search time by various AMS program offices to search for responsive e-mails, as well as duplication costs. Recently, we had a similar request whereby the requester narrowed the scope only to focus on correspondence relating to the four oldest pending requests.

On February 4, I mailed you the first batch of responsive documents, relating to the five oldest pending FOIA requests, however, those documents consisted of mostly correspondence in the FOIA file in my office (which also includes the incoming requests).

Your response concerning clarification would be appreciated. Thank you.



Valerie L. Emmer-Scott
AMS Freedom of Information Act Officer
Privacy Act Officer
Legislative and Regulatory Review Staff
Stop 0202, Room 2622-S
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Phone: (202) 720-2498
Fax: (202) 690-3767

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Office

Mr. Smathers, I am interpreting your modified request applicable only to the 5th oldest pending FOIA request, consisting of records located in my file alone. Is this correct?

Valerie L. Emmer-Scott
AMS Freedom of Information Act Officer
Privacy Act Officer
Legislative and Regulatory Review Staff
Stop 0202, Room 2622-S
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Phone: (202) 720-2498
Fax: (202) 690-3767

From: Jason Smathers

Valerie L. Emmer-Scott,

What is the problem with the 5th oldest request?

I am willing to limit the request in this way:
For the 5th oldest request, limit responsive records to those in your file alone.

Thanks,
Jason Smathers

From: Jason Smathers

Tonya G. Woods,

Please email me with the clarification you need in regard to my response and I will try to help you thhe best I can.

Thanks,
Jason Smathers

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Office

In reference to your revised request, we continue to need clarification concerning e-mails related to all 5 pending FOIA requests.

The 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th oldest requests involve a possible voluminous amount of e-mails between our program offices, as well as my program office. As previously explained to you, your existing request would result in lengthy searches by these offices, in addition to duplication costs that you would be charged before they are sent to you.

Would you be willing to modify your request by focusing solely on correspondence related to these requests? This would drastically reduce/eliminate our extensive search for e-mails and would also reduce costs pertaining to these requests listed above?

Your response by Monday, February 14 is appreciated. In addition, we will delay the processing of your request until these issues are resolved. Thank you.

Valerie L. Emmer-Scott
AMS Freedom of Information Act Officer
Privacy Act Officer
Legislative and Regulatory Review Staff
Stop 0202, Room 2622-S
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Phone: (202) 720-2498
Fax: (202) 690-3767

From: Legislative and Public Affairs

From: Jason Smathers

At first glance, I will likely be willing to limit my request as you suggested.

Before we do so, please tell me what records would be excluded if we "focus solely on correspondence related to these requests."

Thanks,
Jason

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Office

Records that would be excluded would consist of all e-mails and any other requested document relating to these pending requests, some of which would be redacted or withheld if they are pre-decisional or deliberative, or other FOIA exemptions apply, etc.

A search for e-mails relating to these pending requests would involve my office/staff, as well as 10 or more persons from several program offices doing a lengthy search, and may involve a voluminous amount of e-mails which you would be charged duplication fees for.

Our oldest pending FOIA 62-09 and 63-09, pending since May 2009, involves over 70,000 responsive documents to that request. The 2nd and 3rd oldest requests, 96-10 and 4-11, involve a voluminous amount of responsive documents, which are still being searched. A request for e-mails would take quite a bit of time to locate, review, redact and duplicate, resulting in a long delay in providing these documents to you.

Further, you will need to advise the amount of FOIA fees you are willing to pay, before this search is even conducted, and FOIA fees would have to be made up front if costs involve over $250 before documents are sent to you.

All correspondence and notes contained in the 5 pending FOIA files (which are located in the AMS FOIA Office) were mailed to you as enclosures to my letter dated February 4, 2011.

Your immediate response concerning clarification/modification this request is appreciated.

Valerie L. Emmer-Scott
AMS Freedom of Information Act Officer
Privacy Act Officer
Legislative and Regulatory Review Staff
Stop 0202, Room 2622-S
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Phone: (202) 720-2498
Fax: (202) 690-3767

From: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Response

From: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights

From: Forest Service

From: Forest Service

From: Forest Service

From: Jason Smathers

Valerie L. Emmer-Scott,

This is agreeable. I will limit my request as you have suggested.

Thanks,
Jason

From: AMS Freedom of Information Act Office

From: Office of the General Counsel

From: Office of the General Counsel USDA

Attached please find the final response of USDA, Office of the General Counsel to the FOIA request of Jason Smathers.

I would appreciate a reply to this e-mail to confirm receipt. Please let me know if you have difficulty with the attachments.

Thank you.

Brooke E. Geller
Office of the General Counsel
General Law Division
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Room 3311-S
Washington, DC 20250
(202) 720-9695
(202) 720-5837 (fax)
brooke.geller@ogc.usda.gov

From: USDA

From: USDA

From: Office of Inspector General

From: USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Mr . Muckrock,
Many I believe that some agencies within USDA that are processing your request have closed it due to lack of clarification. Please let me know if you are still interested in this information from the Food and Nutrition Services. If you are interested, please clarify if you are requesting 5 oldest at the time of the request or from the current year at the time of request.

If you have any questions please let me know.

Sincerely,
Jennifer

Jennifer Weatherly
FNS FOIA Officer
Information Management Branch
USDA Food and Nutrition Service
(703) 605-0773
jennifer.weatherly@fns.usda.gov
IMB Customer Survey

From: FNS FOIA Officer

Thank you for responding. FNS will respond to your request for the 5 oldest request.

Jennifer

Jennifer Weatherly
FNS FOIA Officer
Information Management Branch
USDA Food and Nutrition Service
(703) 605-0773
jennifer.weatherly@fns.usda.gov
IMB Customer Survey

From: Jason Smathers

No agency within USDA should have closed this request. I hereby request any agency that has done so to reopen the case.

I remain interested. I am requesting the 5 oldest at the time of processing this request.

Regards,
Jason Smathers

From: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

From: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

From: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

From: Executive Planning & Administrative Support Branch

From: Executive Planning & Administrative Support Branch

From: Food and Nutrition Service

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