Thank you for visiting Rural Development’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) home page. The purpose of this page is to assist the public in locating Rural Development records that are of interest to the public, guidance on submitting a FOIA/Privacy Act request, and requesting the status of a request submitted to our agency.
Notice to FOIA Requesters
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rural Development has adjusted normal operations to balance the need of completing mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of our staff. As a result, there may be a delay in receiving a response to your request. The agency is continuing to process Privacy Act (PA) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for agency records during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, portions of our operations are doing so with limited resources. To ensure a timely response is received, please submit your request through Public Access Link (PAL).
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a Federal statute that allows any person the right to obtain Federal agency records unless the records (or part of the records) are protected from disclosure by any of the nine FOIA Exemptions and Exclusions:
(b)(1) (A) Specifically authorized under criteria by an executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified to such Executive Order #12958 (3/25/03).
(b)(2) Related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.
(b)(3) Specifically exempted from disclosure by statute (other than section 552b of this title), provided that such statute (A) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on issue or (B) establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld.
(b)(4) Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.
(b)(5) Inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters that would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.
(b)(6) Personnel and medical files and similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
(b)(7) Records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information:
A.Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings;
B. Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;
C. Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
D. Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of confidential source, including a state, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution that furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source;
E. Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or;
F. Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety or any individual.
(b)(8) Contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.
(b)(9) Geological and geophysical information and data, including maps concerning wells.
FOIA Reading Room
Rural Development’s electronic FOIA Reading Room contains records routinely available to the public under FOIA, including frequently processed records, FOIA guidance and resources, Rural Developments policies and publications, and more. Please be aware Rural Development maintains an electronic reading room only. If you should need assistance using the reading room, please contact the FOIA Office at RD.FOIA@usda.gov.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a Federal statute that allows any person the right to obtain Federal agency records, unless the records (or part of the records) are protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions contained in the law. The Electronic FOIA Amendments (E-FOIA) signed into law in 1996 added a requirement that agencies establish electronic reading rooms. E-FOIA makes it possible for individuals to have electronic access to certain USDA information without making a formal FOIA request. Under E-FOIA, records available to the public online must include agency policy manuals, opinions made in the adjudication of cases, and an index of records released by previous FOIA that are likely to become the subject of subsequent FOIA requests. Information may be located by performing a word search, Browse by Audience, or Browse by Subject at the column located on the left side of this page. There is additional information which is available by subject located on the right side of this page.
Submitting FOIA/Privacy Act Request
Requests for information, including subpoenas, may be sent by mail, e-mail, or through Public Access Link (PAL). PAL is a web portal that allows you to create, submit, and track the status of your FOIA request(s). Privacy Act requests – requests for records indexed to your name - may be accepted through PAL or e-mail. However, because a signature needs to be affixed to the request, you may be required to provide a signed Certificate of Identity. Please indicate that you are making a request under the FOIA and/or Privacy Act and provide as much information as you have about the records you are seeking.
Requesting Status of FOIA/Privacy Act Request
An ideal way to follow up on the status of your FOIA/Privacy Act request is to register with USDA’s Public Access Link (PAL). Once you are registered, you can sign in to view the status of your request(s), send a message to the FOIA Office, and also download responsive records once they are delivered.
If you are not a registered requester, you can still request status of your request through PAL. Please be sure to have the case number provided to you by the FOIA Office, as you will need it to retrieve the status of your request. If you prefer to contact the FOIA Office directly to check the status of your request, please email our office at RD.FOIA@usda.gov.
- FOIA Reading Room
- USDA Electronic FOIA Reading Room
- USDA Departmental Management
- Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
- Federal FOIA Statute
- Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act
- USDA Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
- Code of Federal Regulations
- Annual FOIA Reports
- DOJ FOIA Regulations
- DOJ Fees and Fee Waiver Guide
FOIA Office Contact/Public Liaison Information
USDA Rural Development Business Center
Records and Information Management Branch
1400 Independence Avenue, SW, STOP 0706
Washington, DC 20250-0706