Use of "Still Interested" letters (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service)

Emma Best filed this request with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States of America.
Tracking #

2019-FSIS-00355-F

Multi Request Use of "Still Interested" letters
Est. Completion None
Status
Fix Required

Communications

From: Emma Best


To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

Documents mentioning or describing any use of "Still Interested" letters (i.e. letters inquiring if the requester is still interested in the records requested) in the processing and/or closure of FOIA requests, including but not limited to:

* The original proposal for their use
* Materials authorizing the use of any of the letters
* Controlling policies or procedures
* Any reports or statistics tracking their use, responses received and/or impact on any FOIA backlog
* Communications with OGIS regarding "Still Interested" letters
* Communications between the FOIA offices and and general counsel's/legal services office discussing or mentioning "still interested" letters
* Materials describing or discussing the number of days given to requesters to respond
* Materials describing the agency's policy on reopening requests when a requester responds after the period of time specified in the letter

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, 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,

Emma Best

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

August 29, 2019 Delivered via email Emma Best

MuckRock News DEPT MR 54987
Somerville, Massachusetts 02144-2516 DearBest: This letter acknowledgesreceipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request datedAugust 26, 2019, to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Productionand Conservation Business Center (FPAC-BC).  Your request was received inthis office located onAugust 29, 2019, and assigned control number 2019-FPAC-BC-06333-F, Please use this control number for all future communications regarding this request. You requested the following: Documents mentioning or describing any use of "Still Interested" letters (i.e. letters inquiring if the requester is still interested in the records requested) in the processing and/or closure of FOIA requests, including but not limited to:* The original proposal for their use* Materials authorizing the use of any of the letters* Controlling policies or procedures* Any reports or statistics tracking their use, responses received and/or impact on any FOIA backlog* Communications with OGIS regarding "Still Interested" letters* Communications between the FOIA offices and and general counsel's/legal services office discussing or mentioning "still interested" letters* Materials describing or discussing the number of days given to requesters to respond* Materials describing the agency's policy on reopening requests when a requester responds after the period of time specified in the letterThe requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes. Your request was assignedFOIA Request 2019-FPAC-BC-06333-F and has been placed in the Simple multi-processing track.  Please refer to this number concerningany future inquiries you may have. Your request is beinghandled under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C.§ 552 ( ). http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/amended-foia-redlined.pdf We process requests on afirst-in, first-out basis.  The actual processing time will depend uponthe complexity of the request and whether or not it involves sensitive orvoluminous records, or extensive searches and/or consultations.  We alsoprocess requests on a multi-track basis.  This means that simple requests,requiring minimal effort to respond, are processed in one track, and morevoluminous and complex requests are processed in another track.  We haveplaced your request in the Simple track. We will be in contact withyou as soon as possible regarding the Cost Estimate for this request, ifapplicable.
If you have any questionsregarding the processing of this request, please contact me at(202) 590-6168 or electronically at Patrick.mcloughlin@usda.gov. You can also contact Philip Buchan, FOIA PublicLiaison, for any further assistance or to discuss any aspect of your request at(301) 504-1701 or nrcs.foia@nrcs.usda.gov I appreciate theopportunity to assist you in this matter. Sincerely, Patrick McLoughlin
FOIA Officer

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

This request is overly broad and somewhat abstract. We would have to sift through every FOIA Request to find out if a Still Interested letter was even sent. And then figure out the outcome based on that letter. None of these actions get tracked automatically in FOIAXpress.

Secondly, regarding any policy, we follow the federal statute or OIP guidance for use of these letters. There’s no separate agency policy. We give 30 days for a response after which point we close the request.

https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/oip-releases-new-guidance-agency-still-interested-inquiries

You haven’t provided a date range either.

Patrick McLoughlin
FOIA Officer
Intergovernmental and Private Partnerships
Legislative and Stakeholder Engagement Branch
External Affairs Division
Farm Production and Conservation Business Center
375 Jackson St., Suite 600
St. Paul, MN 55101
************************************
Office/Cell: (202) 590-6168
Patrick.mcloughlin@usda.gov<mailto:Patrick.mcloughlin@usda.gov>

Stay Connected with USDA:
[cid:image001.png@01CED708.E2E17660]<http://www.usda.gov/> [cid:image002.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://blogs.usda.gov/category/conservation/> [cid:image003.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://www.facebook.com/usda/> [cid:image004.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <https://twitter.com/USDA_NRCS/> [cid:image005.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://www.youtube.com/user/TheUSDANRCS> [cid:image006.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDANRCS/subscriber/new> [cid:image007.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://flickr.com/usdagov>

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Ms. Best –

I have not received a response to the email letter I sent you on 9/30/2019 (copied below).

If I don’t hear back from you by the end of this week, I’ll go ahead and administratively close your request.

Thank you.

Patrick McLoughlin
FOIA Officer
Intergovernmental and Private Partnerships
Legislative and Stakeholder Engagement Branch
External Affairs Division
Farm Production and Conservation Business Center
375 Jackson St., Suite 600
St. Paul, MN 55101
************************************
Office/Cell: (202) 590-6168
Patrick.mcloughlin@usda.gov<mailto:Patrick.mcloughlin@usda.gov>

Stay Connected with USDA:
[cid:image001.png@01CED708.E2E17660]<http://www.usda.gov/> [cid:image002.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://blogs.usda.gov/category/conservation/> [cid:image003.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://www.facebook.com/usda/> [cid:image004.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <https://twitter.com/USDA_NRCS/> [cid:image005.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://www.youtube.com/user/TheUSDANRCS> [cid:image006.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDANRCS/subscriber/new> [cid:image007.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://flickr.com/usdagov>

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Dear Ms. Emma Best,

This email is to inform you that the specialist previously assigned to your FOIA request 2019-FSIS-00355-F, Javon Forde, is no longer working with the Food Safety and Inspection Service at USDA.  As I will be taking over processing this request, please direct any future correspondence to my attention and email. Your request is currently in the processing queue, but please know we are working to answer your request as soon as possible. Thank you.

Sincerely, Ilaria Bangara
Freedom of Information Act Office
Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education
Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA
Room 1170 - South Building
Washington, DC 20250
Phone: 202-690-1787
Ilaria.Bangara@usda.gov

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

I set two emails previously to this address – the content is copied below. Technically, I should’ve already closed it.

Sent requester an email on 9/30 as follows:

This request is overly broad and somewhat abstract. We would have to sift through every FOIA Request to find out if a Still Interested letter was even sent. And then figure out the outcome based on that letter. None of these actions get tracked automatically in FOIAXpress.

Secondly, regarding any policy, we follow the federal statute or OIP guidance for use of these letters. There's no separate agency policy. We give 30 days for a response after which point we close the request.

https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/oip-releases-new-guidance-agency-still-interested-inquiries

You haven't provided a date range either.

****************************************************************************
Ms. Best –

I have not received a response to the email letter I sent you on 9/30/2019 (copied below).

If I don't hear back from you by the end of this week, I'll go ahead and administratively close your request.

Thank you.

Patrick McLoughlin
FOIA Officer
Intergovernmental and Private Partnerships
Legislative and Stakeholder Engagement Branch
External Affairs Division
Farm Production and Conservation Business Center
375 Jackson St., Suite 600
St. Paul, MN 55101
************************************
Office/Cell: (202) 590-6168
Patrick.mcloughlin@usda.gov<mailto:Patrick.mcloughlin@usda.gov>

Stay Connected with USDA:
[cid:image001.png@01CED708.E2E17660]<http://www.usda.gov/> [cid:image002.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://blogs.usda.gov/category/conservation/> [cid:image003.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://www.facebook.com/usda/> [cid:image004.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <https://twitter.com/USDA_NRCS/> [cid:image005.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://www.youtube.com/user/TheUSDANRCS> [cid:image006.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDANRCS/subscriber/new> [cid:image007.png@01CED708.E2E17660] <http://flickr.com/usdagov>

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

December 05, 2019 Delivered via Emma Best MuckRock News DEPT MR 54987 Somerville, Massachusetts 02144-2516 Dear Ms. Best: This letter pertains to your August 26, 2019, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated August 29, 2019, to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Production and Conservation - Business Center.  You requested the following: Documents mentioning or describing any use of "Still Interested" letters (i.e. letters inquiring if the requester is still interested in the records requested) in the processing and/or closure of FOIA requests, including but not limited to:* The original proposal for their use* Materials authorizing the use of any of the letters* Controlling policies or procedures* Any reports or statistics tracking their use, responses received and/or impact on any FOIA backlog* Communications with OGIS regarding "Still Interested" letters* Communications between the FOIA offices and and general counsel's/legal services office discussing or mentioning "still interested" letters* Materials describing or discussing the number of days given to requesters to respond* Materials describing the agency's policy on reopening requests when a requester responds after the period of time specified in the letterThe requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes. Your request was assigned FOIA control number 2019-FPAC-BC-NRCS-06333-F. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to contact you about the scope of your request, I am closing it. Please see the attached email thread regarding this. As of the date of this letter, I have not received a response to your request.  Accordingly, I am administratively closing your request without prejudice. If you would like to discuss this matter please call me at the number below. You may contact Philip Buchan, FOIA Public Liaison, at (301) 504-1701 or nrcs.foia@nrcs.usda.gov , for any further assistance and to discuss any aspect of your request. Additionally, you may contact the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives and Records Administration to inquire about the FOIA mediation services they offer.  The contact information for OGIS is as follows: Office of Government Information Services National Archives and Records Administration 8601 Adelphi Road College Park, MD  20740-6001 Email: ogis@nara.gov Telephone: (202) 741-5770; toll free at 1-877-684-6448 Fax: (202) 741-5769 https://ogis.archives.gov If you are not satisfied with the agency’s determination in response to this request, you may administratively appeal this determination. The appeal must be postmarked or electronically transmitted within 90 calendar days of the date of this denial letter.  Your appeal should include a copy of the original request, the response to the request, and a statement of your reason for the appeal.  To facilitate the processing of an appeal, the phrase “FOIA APPEAL” or "PRIVACY ACT APPEAL" in capital letters should be placed on the front of the envelope or in the subject line of an email. Farm Production and Conservation Business Center Attention: Appeals and Litigation Division 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 5971-S Washington, D.C. 20250-0570 Telephone: (202) 690-3297 FSAFOIAappeal@wdc.usda.gov If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact me at (202) 590-6168 or electronically at Patrick.mcloughlin@usda.gov. Sincerely, Patrick McLoughlin FOIA Officer

  • Response to Emma Best - Muckrock - with email correspondence attached(2)

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Good morning Ms. Best,

My name is Randolph Ballard. I am a FOIA analyst with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I am reaching out to you concerning the FOIA request that you filed on May 29, 2018. Sarah Scharf was the original analyst assigned to process your request. I am now handling your request and would like to determine if you are still interested in receiving these records. If so, then I would like to pick up where Ms. Scharf left off in asking for clarification.

First, as previously stated, you filed this FOIA request over two years ago, on May 29, 2018. Because so much time has passed, these records may no longer be pertinent to you. If that is the case, then we will simply close your request. Please state whether you are still interested in receiving these records.

Second, if you are still interested in receiving the records for this FOIA request then our Office would like to narrow the scope of the responsive records. As Ms. Scharf stated to you, the search produced over 5,000 records. In order to reduce the number of responsive records, our office would like to exclude news clippings where the term “Muckrock” appears. Our office would also like to exclude emails where USDA staff are invited to an American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP) training in which one of the presenters is from Muckrock. Would you be willing to waive receipt of new clips and the ASAP training invitations?

Pleas respond to this email within ten (10) business days (July 6, 2020).

Please see attached to this email:

1. A copy of your request.
2. Three email correspondences between you and Ms. Scharf, clarifying the request.

Sincerely,

[USDA Email Sig Logo]
Randolph Ballard Jr., Esq.
FOIA Analyst
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the General Counsel,
1200-1398, Independence Ave SW,
Room 2039A
Washington, DC 20024
☎ 202-720-3461 (Voice)
Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov<mailto:Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov>

This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Good morning Ms. Best,

I am reaching out to you again in regard to your FOIA request to determine whether you are still interested in receiving the records. Please reach out to our office soon.

Thank you.

[USDA Email Sig Logo]
Randolph Ballard Jr., Esq.
FOIA Analyst
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the General Counsel,
1200-1398, Independence Ave SW,
Room 2039A
Washington, DC 20024
☎ 202-720-3461 (Voice)
Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov<mailto:Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov>

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Good morning Ms. Best,

I am just checking in again. Please give me a call or email so that we may proceed with the processing of your request.

[USDA Email Sig Logo]
Randolph Ballard Jr., Esq.
FOIA Analyst
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the General Counsel,
1200-1398, Independence Ave SW,
Room 2039A
Washington, DC 20024
☎ 202-720-3461 (Voice)
Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov<mailto:Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov>

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Good morning Ms. Best,

I am just checking in again. Please give me a call or email so that we may proceed with the processing of your request.

[USDA Email Sig Logo]
Randolph Ballard Jr., Esq.
FOIA Analyst
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the General Counsel,
1200-1398, Independence Ave SW,
Room 2039A
Washington, DC 20024
☎ 202-720-3461 (Voice)
Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov<mailto:Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov>

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Good morning Ms. Best,

I have been attempting to reach out to you over the past two weeks. My name is Randolph Ballard. I am a FOIA analyst with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I am reaching out to you concerning the FOIA request that you filed on May 29, 2018. Sarah Scharf was the original analyst assigned to process your request. I am now handling your request and would like to determine if you are still interested in receiving these records. If so, then I would like to pick up where Ms. Scharf left off in asking for clarification.

First, as previously stated, you filed this FOIA request over two years ago, on May 29, 2018. Because so much time has passed, these records may no longer be pertinent to you. If that is the case, then we will simply close your request. Please state whether you are still interested in receiving these records.

Second, if you are still interested in receiving the records for this FOIA request then our Office would like to narrow the scope of the responsive records. As Ms. Scharf stated to you, the search produced over 5,000 records. In order to reduce the number of responsive records, our office would like to exclude news clippings where the term “Muckrock” appears. Our office would also like to exclude emails where USDA staff are invited to an American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP) training in which one of the presenters is from Muckrock. Would you be willing to waive receipt of new clips and the ASAP training invitations?

[USDA Email Sig Logo]
Randolph Ballard Jr., Esq.
FOIA Analyst
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the General Counsel,
1200-1398, Independence Ave SW,
Room 2039A
Washington, DC 20024
☎ 202-720-3461 (Voice)
Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov<mailto:Randolph.Ballard@usda.gov>

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Dear Ms. Emma Best,
This email is toinform that as I will no longer be working with the Food Safety and InspectionService at USDA, another specialist will be assigned to your FOIA request 2019-FSIS-00355 .  For now, please direct any futurecorrespondence to our Lead Government Information Specialist, April Harrid at April.Harrid@usda.gov .  Your request is currently in theprocessing queue, but please know that we are working to answer your request assoon as possible.  Thank you.

Sincerely, Ilaria Bangara
Freedom of Information Act Office
Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education
Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA
Room 1170 - South Building
Washington, DC 20250
Phone: 202-690-1787
Ilaria.Bangara@usda.gov

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Dear Muckrock News Requester:

Your FSIS FOIA request was recently assigned to me and I am reviewing. I will update with more information in the near future. I prepared a reminder in Outlook to update you no later than two weeks from today.

Tim

Timothy Poe
Government Information Specialist
USDA/FSIS/FOIA

From: Emma Best

You should set a reminder for its birthday, too.

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

I also need a reminder for my own birthday.

Thanks.

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Dear Muckrock requester:

Updating – no change in the previous status of your request. I haven’t heard back from the other agency departments and program areas tasked with fulfilling the request.

Once again I will set a reminder to update.

Please let me know if you have questions.

Tim
USDA/FSIS/FOIA

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Dear Muckrock requester:

Updating again – no change in the previous status of your request. I haven’t heard back from the other agency departments and program areas tasked with fulfilling the request.

And once again I will set a reminder to update.

Please let me know if you have questions.

Tim
USDA/FSIS/FOIA

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Ms. Best:
Your FOIA request, 2019-FS-WO-04124-F, has been reassigned to me for review. You have requested the following: "Documents generated as part of the creation of the FOIA office (defined as whatever department, office, or coordinator is responsible for overseeing and/or processing FOIA requests), whether this was at the time of the agency's creation or the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, to include:

* The instruction to do so from the Agency, as well as any guidance from the senior leadership

* Documents discussing proposals and procedures
* Any legal guidance or analysis produced or acquired by the Agency in response to or as part of the creation of the FOIA office Internal documents from the press office, legislative liaison's office (or equivalent), general counsel's office (or equivalent), director's office (or equivalent) or the newly created FOIA office, reacting to or characterizing the office and it's creation

* A copy of the agency's first perfected (successful) FOIA request
* Copies of other FOIA requests filed before the FOIA request described above
* Processing notes, search slips and response documents regarding the FOIA requests described above
* The first set of guidelines, instructions and/or forms created to control the agency's processing of FOIA requests
* A copy of the agency's first successful FOIA appeal
* Copies of other FOIA appeals received by the agency before the appeal described above
* Processing notes, search slips and response documents regarding the FOIA appeals described above The first set of guidelines, instructions and/or forms created to control the agency's processing of FOIA appeals" While the FOIA does not direct agencies to answer questions but to provide records, I would like to provide some context to the scope of your request. The FOIA was passed into law in 1966 which would mean that the records you have requested above would have potentially been created more than fifty years ago. The first two links provided below describe the records retention policy of the US Forest Service which was recently expanded out to cover a six year period once a FOIA request is closed. Forest Service FOIA Record Retention Schedule (reference file code 6270) (https://gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.fs.fed.us%2Fcgi-bin%2FDirectives%2Fget_dirs%2Ffsh%3F6209.11&data=02%7C01%7C%7Cb1be03f565ec48f88c9808d84836c2f7%7Ced5b36e701ee4ebc867ee03cfa0d4697%7C0%7C0%7C637338747315861406&sdata=ZkcQOwfUcaur7k1xnZBVjxfwuHrld6SqvxdvJSxz7NE%3D&reserved=0) https://www.fs.fed.us/cgi-bin/Directives/get_dirs/fsh?6209.11 General Records Schedule 4.2 https://www.archives.gov/files/records-mgmt/grs/grs04-2.pdf If you are interested in historical records that are no longer held by the Forest Service I am including a link to the National Archives site that provides information about  their catalog of records. National Archives: Guide to Federal Records - Records of the Forest Service https://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/095.html (https://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/095.html)
I believe these public links will provide you with all the information available related to your FOIA request. If you disagree and would like a formal response from the Forest Service please respond to this email by October 2, 2020. After that date I will assume you agree with the closure of this request.
Thank you for your patience with our response as we have had a larger than usual backlog of FOIA requests, consultations, and referrals to process.
Respectfully, Melani Gonzalez
MELANI R. GONZALEZ
Government Information Specialist
Forest Service
Office of Regulatory and Management Services
p: 360-980-1105
melani.gonzalez@usda.gov

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