Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Fee Schedule
OASCR FOIA Office is authorized by law to recover the costs of providing information and records on a FOIA request. Fees may be assessed under the Freedom of Information Act on all requests involving such services as record search, duplication, and review. Fees may also be charged in situations involving special service to a request, such as certifying that records requested are true copies, or sending records by special methods such as express mail, etc. For services not covered by the FOIA or by this appendix, agencies may set their own fees in accordance with applicable law, or costs incurred will be assessed the requester at the actual cost to the Government. For example, where records are required to be shipped from one office to another by commercial carrier in order to timely answer a request, the actual freight charge will be assessed the requester. See USDA’s Fee Schedule at 7 CFR Part 1, Appendix A.
No charge shall be made—even to commercial use requesters—if the cost of collecting a fee would be equal to or greater than the fee itself. For USDA, this figure has been calculated to be $25.00, where a homogeneous class of personnel is used exclusively, at the rate of $10.00 per hour for clerical time, and $20.00 per hour for supervisory or professional time. Charges should be computed to the nearest quarter hour required for the search. A homogeneous class of personnel, for purposes of conducting manual searches and where more than one individual is involved, is a group of employees of like rank, grade, pay or position. A heterogeneous class of personnel is a group of employees of unlike rank, grade, pay, or position. If a heterogeneous class of personnel is involved in a search, then the search shall be charged for at the salary rate of the individuals.
Mainframe computer searches and services shall be charged for at the rates established in the User’s Manual or Handbook published by the computer center at which the work will be performed. Where the rate has not been established, the rate shall be $27.00 per minute. Searches using computers other than mainframes shall be charged for at the manual search rate.
Fees Will be Charged
There is no initial fee to file a FOIA request. However, an agency is entitled to charge certain fees, which depend on the category of requester you fall into. For the purposes of fees only, the FOIA divides requesters into four categories:
- Commercial use requester is defined as one who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is made. Commercial requesters pay all fees for search, review, and duplication.
- Educational and non commercial scientific institution requesters. The term educational institution refers to a preschool, a public or private elementary or secondary school, an institution of graduate higher education, an institution of undergraduate higher education, an institution of professional education, and an institution of vocational education, which operates a program or programs of scholarly research.Non-commercial scientific institution refers to institution that is not operated on a “commercial” basis, and which is operated solely for conducting scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any product or industry. These requesters pay only duplication fees after receiving the first 100 pages at nocost.
- Requesters who are representatives of the news media refers to any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. These requesters pay only duplication fees after receiving the first 100 pages at no cost.
- Other requesters are those who do not qualify for another category and the request is for their personal use.
Per our regulation, if, and after taking into consideration your fee category entitlements, our processing costs are less than $25.00, we will not bill you because the cost of collection would be greater than the fee collected. Fees may not be charged for time spent by an agency employee in resolving legal or policy issues, or in monitoring a requester's inspection of agency records. No charge shall be made for normal postage costs.
No charge shall be made—even to commercial use requesters—if the cost of collecting a fee would be equal to or greater than the fee itself. For USDA, this figure has been calculated to be $25.00.
Records furnished without charge under the following conditions:
- When filling requests from other Departments or Government agencies for official use, provided quantities requested are reasonable in number;
- When members of the public provide their own copying equipment, in which case no copying fee will be charged (although search and review fees may still be assessed);
- When any notices, decisions, orders, or other materials are required by law to be served on a party in any proceeding or matter before any Department agency.