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e-CFR data is current as of July 9, 2020

Title 7Subtitle APart 1Subpart A → Appendix


Title 7: Agriculture
PART 1—ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATIONS
Subpart A—Official Records


Appendix A to Subpart A of Part 1—Fee Schedule

Section 1. In General. This schedule sets forth fees to be charged for providing copies of records—including photographic reproductions, microfilm, maps and mosaics, and related services—requested under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). The fees set forth in this schedule are applicable to all components of the USDA. Further information about fees and fee waivers is provided in 7 CFR 1.12 Fees and Fee Waivers.

Section 2. Definitions.

(a) Types of FOIA fees. The FOIA defines the following types of FOIA fees that may be charged for responding to FOIA requests.

(1) Search fees.

(i) Searching is the process of looking for and retrieving records or information responsive to a request. Search time includes page-by-page or line-by-line identification of information within records and the reasonable efforts expended to locate and retrieve information from electronic records.

(ii) Search time is charged in quarter-hour increments within the USDA, and includes the direct costs incurred by a component in searching for records responsive to a request. It does not include overhead expenses such as the costs of space and heating or lighting of the facility in which the records are maintained.

(iii) Components may charge for time spent searching for requested records even if they do not locate any responsive records or if they determine that the records that they locate are entirely exempt from disclosure.

(iv) USDA components will charge for search time at the actual salary rate of the individual who conducts the search, plus 16 percent of the salary rate (to cover benefits). This rate was adopted for consistency with the Uniform Freedom of Information Act Fee Schedule and Guidelines (“OMB Fee Guidelines”) that state that agencies should charge fees that recoup the full allowable direct costs that they incur in searching for responsive records.

(v) Search time also includes the direct costs associated with conducting any search that requires the creation of a new computer program to locate the requested records. Components will notify requesters of the costs of creating such a program, and requesters must agree to pay the associated costs before these costs may be incurred.

(2) Review fees.

(i) Reviewing is the process of examining records located in response to a request in order to determine whether any portion of the records is exempt from disclosure. The process of review also includes the process of preparing records for disclosure, for example, doing all that is necessary to redact them and prepare them for release. Review time also includes time spent considering any formal objection to disclosure of responsive records made by a business submitter as discussed in 7 CFR 1.8 Requirements for processing requests seeking business information. However, it does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of the nine FOIA exemptions.

(ii) Review time is charged in quarter-hour increments within the USDA, and includes the direct costs incurred by a component in preparing records responsive to a request for disclosure. It does not include overhead expenses such as the costs of space and heating or lighting of the facility in which the records are maintained.

(iii) USDA components may charge for time spent reviewing requested records even if they determine that the records reviewed are entirely exempt from disclosure.

(iv) USDA components will charge for review time at the actual salary rate of the individual who conducts the review, plus 16 percent of the salary rate (to cover benefits). This rate was adopted for consistency with the OMB Fee Guidelines that state that agencies should charge fees that recoup the full allowable direct costs that they incur in reviewing records for disclosure.

(v) Review time also includes the direct costs associated with the cost of computer programming designed to facilitate a manual review of the records, or to perform electronic redaction of responsive records, particularly when records are maintained in electronic form. Components will notify requesters of the costs performing such programming, and requesters must agree to pay the associated costs before these costs may be incurred.

(3) Duplication fees.

(i) Duplicating is the process of producing copies of records or information contained in records requested under the FOIA. Copies can take the form of paper, audiovisual materials, or electronic records, among other forms.

(ii) Duplication is generally charged on a per-unit basis. The duplication of paper records will be charged at a rate of $.05 per page within the USDA. The duplication of records maintained in other formats will include all direct costs incurred by a component in performing the duplication, including any costs associated in acquiring special media, such as CDs, disk drives, special mailers, and so forth, for transmitting the requested records or information. It does not include overhead expenses such as the costs of space and heating or lighting of the facility in which the records are maintained.

(iii) Duplication generally does not include the cost of the time of the individual making the copy. This time is generally factored into the per page cost of duplication. However, when duplication requires the handling of fragile records, or paper records that cannot be safely duplicated in high-speed copiers, components may also charge for the time spent duplicating these records. In such an instance, the cost of this time will be added to the per-page charge, and an explanation provided to the requester in the component's itemization of FOIA fees charges. Components may describe this time as time spent in duplicating fragile records.

(iv) USDA components will charge for time spent in duplicating fragile records at the actual salary rate of the individual who performs the duplication, plus 16 percent of the salary rate (to cover benefits). This rate was adopted for consistency with the OMB Fee Guidelines that state that agencies should charge fees that recoup the full allowable direct costs that they incur in duplicating requested records.

(v) Where paper records must be scanned in order to comply with a requester's preference to receive the records in an electronic format, duplication costs will also include the direct costs associated with scanning those materials, including the time spent by the individual performing the scanning. Components may describe this time as time spent in scanning paper records.

(vi) However, when components ordinarily scan paper records in order to review and/or redact them, the time required for scanning records will not be included in duplication fees, but in review fees, when these are applicable. When components that ordinarily scan paper records in order to review and/or redact them release records in an electronic format to requesters who are not to be charged review fees, duplication fees will not include the time spent in scanning paper records. In such instances, duplication fees may only include the direct costs of reproducing the scanned records. In such instances, components may not charge duplication fees on a per-page basis.

(b) Categories of FOIA requesters for fee purposes. The FOIA defines the following types of requests and requesters for the charging of FOIA fees.

(1) Commercial use requests.

(i) Commercial use requests are requests for information for a use or a purpose that furthers commercial, trade or profit interests, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. Components will determine, whenever reasonably possible, the use to which a requester will put the requested records. When it appears that the requester will put the records to a commercial use, either because of the nature of the request itself or because a component has reasonable cause to doubt a requester's stated use, the component may provide the requester a reasonable opportunity to submit further clarification. A component's decision to place a request in the commercial use category will be made on a case-by-case basis based on the requester's intended use of the information.

(ii) Commercial requests will be charged applicable search fees, review, and duplication fees.

(iii) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to a commercial request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), and if no unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), it may not charge search fees for the processing of the request. It may, however, still charge applicable review and duplication fees.

(iv) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to a commercial request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), when unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), and the component notifies the requester, in writing, within the statutory 20-working day time period, that unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, and the component has discussed with the requester by means of written mail, electronic mail, or by telephone (or has made not less than three good faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request, the component may charge any search fees for the processing of the request, as well as any applicable review and duplication fees. Otherwise, it may only charge applicable review and duplication fees.

(2) Educational institution requesters.

(i) Educational institution requesters are requesters who are affiliated with a school that operates a program of scholarly research, such as a preschool, a public or private elementary or secondary school, an institution of undergraduate education, an institution of graduate higher education, an institution of professional education, or an institution of vocational education. To be in this category, a requester must show that the request is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scholarly research. Records sought by students at an educational institution for use in fulfilling their degree requirements may qualify if the requester articulates a clear relationship to his or her coursework. Students must document how the records they are requesting will further the scholarly research aims of the institution in question.

(ii) Educational institution requesters are entitled to receive 100 pages of duplication without charge. Following the exhaustion of this entitlement, they will be charged fees for the duplicating of any additional pages of responsive records released. They may not be charged search or review fees.

(iii) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to an educational use request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), and if no unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), it may not charge duplication fees for the processing of the request.

(iv) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to an educational use request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), when unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), and the component notifies the requester, in writing, within the statutory 20-working day time period, that unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, and the component has discussed with the requester by means of written mail, electronic mail, or by telephone (or has made not less than three good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request, the component may charge duplication for the processing of the request. Otherwise, it may not charge duplication fees.

(3) Noncommercial scientific institution requesters.

(i) Noncommercial scientific institution requesters are requesters who are affiliated with an institution that is not operated on a “commercial” basis, as that term is defined in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, and that is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry. To be in this category, a requester must show that the request is authorized by and is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scientific research.

(ii) Noncommercial scientific institution requesters are entitled to receive 100 pages of duplication without charge. Following the exhaustion of this entitlement, they will be charged fees for the duplicating of any additional pages of responsive records released. They may not be charged search or review fees.

(iii) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to a noncommercial scientific institution request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), and if no unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), it may not charge duplication fees for the processing of the request.

(iv) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to a noncommercial scientific institution request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), when unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), and the component notifies the requester, in writing, within the statutory 20-working day time period, that unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, and the component has discussed with the requester by means of written mail, electronic mail, or by telephone (or has made not less than three good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request, the component may charge duplication for the processing of the request. Otherwise, it may not charge duplication fees.

(4) Representatives of the news media.

(i) Representative of the news media is any person or entity that actively gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. The term “news” means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news media entities include, but are not limited to, television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals (but only in those instances where they can qualify as disseminators of “news”) who make their products available for purchase or subscription by the general public, including news organizations that disseminate solely on the internet. For “freelance” journalists to be regarded as working for a news organization, they must demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that organization. A publication contract would be the clearest proof, but components will also look to the past publication record of a requester in making this determination. To be in this category, a requester must not be seeking the requested records for a commercial use. However, a request for records supporting the news-dissemination function of the requester will not be considered of commercial use.

(ii) Representatives of the news media are entitled to receive 100 pages of duplication without charge. Following the exhaustion of this entitlement, they will be charged fees for the duplication of any additional pages of responsive records released. They may not be charged search or review fees.

(iii) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to a news-media use request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), and if no unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), it may not charge duplication fees for the processing of the request.

(iv) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to a news-media request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), when unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), and the component notifies the requester, in writing, within the statutory 20-working day time period, that unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, and the component has discussed with the requester by means of written mail, electronic mail, or by telephone (or has made not less than three good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request, the component may charge duplication for the processing of the request. Otherwise, it may not charge duplication fees.

(5) All other requesters.

(i) All other requesters are individuals and entities who do not fall into any of the four categories described in Section 2(b) paragraphs (1), (2), (3) and (4) of this appendix. Requesters seeking information for personal use, public interest groups, and nonprofit organizations are examples of requesters who might fall into this group.

(ii) All other requesters are entitled to receive 100 pages of duplication without charge. Following the exhaustion of this entitlement, they will be charged fees for the duplicating of any additional pages of responsive records released. All other requesters are also entitled to receive 2 hours of search time without charge. Following the exhaustion of this entitlement, they may be charged search fees for any remaining search time required to locate the records requested. They may not be charged review fees.

(iii) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to an all-other request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), and if no unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), it may not charge search fees for the processing of the request.

(iv) If a component fails to comply with the statutory time limits in which to respond to an all-other request, as provided in 7 CFR 1.6(b), when unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, as discussed in 7 CFR 1.6(d), and the component notifies the requester, in writing, within the statutory 20-working day time period, that unusual or exceptional circumstances, as those terms are defined by the FOIA, apply to the processing of the request, more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, and the component has discussed with the requester by means of written mail, electronic mail, or by telephone (or has made not less than three good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request, the component may charge search fees for the processing of the request as well as any applicable duplication fees. Otherwise, it may only charge applicable duplication fees.

Section 3. Charging fees.

(a) In general. When responding to FOIA requests, components will charge all applicable FOIA fees that exceed the USDA charging threshold, as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, unless a waiver or reduction of fees has been granted under 7 CFR 1.12(p), or statutory time limits on processing are not met, and when unusual or exceptional circumstances apply, components do not meet all of the three conditions for charging as set forth in 7 CFR 1.12(o).

(b) USDA fee charging threshold. The OMB Fee Guidelines state that agencies will not charge FOIA fees if the cost of collecting the fee would be equal to or greater than the fee itself. This limitation applies to all requests, including those seeking records for commercial use. At the USDA, the cost of collecting a FOIA fee is currently established as $25.00. Therefore, when calculating FOIA fees, components will charge requesters all applicable FOIA fees when these fees equal or exceed $25.01.

(c) Charging interest. Components may charge interest on any unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the date of billing the requester. Interest charges will be assessed at the rate provided in 31 U.S.C. 3717 and will accrue from the billing date until payment is received by the component. Components will follow the provisions of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365, 96 Stat. 1749), as amended, and its administrative procedures, including the use of consumer reporting agencies, collection agencies, and offset.

(d) NARA retrieval fees. For requests that require the retrieval of records stored by a component at a Federal records center operated by the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”), additional costs will be charged in accordance with the Transactional Billing Rate Schedule established by NARA.

(e) Other statutes specifically providing for fees. The fee schedule of this section does not apply to fees charged under any statute that specifically requires a component to set and collect fees for particular types of records. In instances where records responsive to a request are subject to a statutorily-based fee schedule program, the component will inform the requester of the contact information for that program.

(f) Social Security Numbers and Tax Identification Numbers. Components may not require requesters to provide Social Security Numbers or Tax Identification Numbers in order to pay FOIA fees due.

Table 1 to Appendix A to Subpart A—FOIA Fee Schedule

Type of requestType of chargePrice
Commercial RequestersDuplication charges$0.05 per page.
When the component has to copy fragile records, the charge is $0.05 per page plus the copying time involved, which includes the actual hourly salary rate of the employee involved, plus 16% of the hourly salary rate.
   Search chargesActual hourly salary rate of employee involved, plus 16% of the hourly salary rate.
   Review chargesActual hourly salary rate of employee involved, plus 16% of the hourly salary rate.
Educational or Non-Commercial Scientific RequestersDuplication chargesNo charge for first 100 pages, then $0.05 per page.
When the component has to copy fragile records, the charge is $0.05 per page plus the copying time involved, which includes the actual hourly salary rate of the employee involved, plus 16% of the hourly salary rate.
   Search chargesFree.
   Review chargesFree.
Representatives of the News MediaDuplication chargesNo charge for first 100 pages, then $0.05 per page
When the component has to copy fragile records, the charge is $0.05 per page plus the copying time involved, which includes the actual hourly salary rate of the employee involved, plus 16% of the hourly salary rate.
   Search chargesFree.
   Review chargesFree.
All Other RequestersDuplication chargesNo charge for first 100 pages, then $0.05 per page.
When the component has to copy fragile records, the charge is $0.05 per page plus the copying time involved, which includes the actual hourly salary rate of the employee involved, plus 16% of the hourly salary rate.
   Search chargesNo charge for first two (2) hours of search time, then actual hourly salary rate of employee involved, plus 16% of the hourly salary rate.
   Review chargesFree.

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