Office of Ethics
United States Department of Agriculture

Acceptance of Non-Federal Travel Assistance

February 2004

Authority Nature of Travel Purpose Location Source of Payment Nature of Benefits Conflict Analysis1 Who
Accepts
31 U.S.C. 1353
Acceptance of Non-Federal Travel Funds as implemented at 41 CFR 304-1.
Official Meeting, conference, seminar, speech, etc., related to employee’s official duties. Away from duty station. Non-Federal. Travel, subsistence, & related expenses. No conflict and no appearance of favoritism or loss of impartiality [see 41 CFR 304-1.5]. Cash/checks to agency.
In-kind assistance to employee. Generally, requires prior approval.2
7 U.S.C. 2269
Secretary’s Gift Acceptance Authority as implemented by DR 5200-3 (4/18/03) Gift Acceptance Policy.3
Official. Furtherance of USDA functions. Anywhere. Non-Federal. Any gift or bequest.

Refer conditional gifts to Chief Financial Officer.

May be authorized under DR 5200-3 [6.c.(1) (b)(c) or (d)].4 Secretary, delegated to Agency / Staff Head or designee. Requires prior approval.
5 U.S.C. 4111
Government Employees Training Act as implemented by 5 CFR 410.501-503.
Official. Training or meeting in a non-Federal facility. Anywhere. Tax-exempt organization, State/local government or District of Columbia. Travel, subsistence & related expenses. May not be reward for prior service & may not impair employee impartiality, agency program integrity, or violate ethics laws. Employee may accept cash, check or in-kind but, Agency or Staff Head or designee must formally authorize.
5 U.S.C. 7342
Foreign Gifts & Decorations Act as implemented by 41 CFR Part 101-49
Official
or personal.
Overseas travel. Totally outside U.S. Foreign government. Travel, subsistence & lodging. None.
No limit on travel totally outside U.S.
Employee without prior clearance.
Post travel report required.
5 CFR Part 2635
Subpart B - Gifts from Outside Sources.
Personal. Varied. Anywhere. Non-Federal including prohibited source. Varied. Must be acceptable exclusion to gift prohibition. [See 5 CFR 2635.204.(a) and (d) through (f)]. Employee.Prior approval not required.
5 CFR 2635.807
Teaching, speaking and writing.5
Personal. In personal capacity, travel to speak on issues related to one’s employment. Anywhere. Non-Federal. Travel, subsistence and lodging.
No honoraria.
Non-career SES and Exec. Levels are barred.
All others: no bar.
Employee. Confidential & Public Financial Disclosure filers must seek prior approval under certain conditions.6

Definitions:

Official means activity is conducted on Federal time or as a representative of the Federal government.

Personal means activity is conducted on employee’s own time as his/her own representative.

Prohibited source means a non-Federal entity that: is seeking official action by USDA; does business or seeks to do business with USDA; conducts activities regulated by USDA; seeks to influence USDA’s policies or regulations; has interests that may be significantly affected by the employee’s USDA duties; or is an organization a majority of whose members are described above.

Notes:

1 Employees and Ethics Advisors must also consider whether other conflicts of interest or other Standards of Ethical Conduct issues such as misuse of non-public information may be involved.

2 Employees may accept additional travel assistance while in travel status when it is offered from the same source if:

  1. the assistance offered is comparable in value to that offered to or purchased by other attendees, and
  2. the agency didn't decline such assistance in advance of the employee's travel.
Employees in travel status may also accept assistance from a source not authorized by their agency prior to travel when the value of the assistance is within the maximum allowance stated on their travel authorization. Such assistance is limited to meals, lodging, and transportation only, and the traveler must request agency authorization for acceptance within 7 working days after the trip ends. Warning: If the Agency does not authorize acceptance, it could require the traveler to reimburse the non-Federal source.

3 This authority may not be applied to meetings and similar off-site events as defined in 42 CFR 304-1. Questions of an ethical nature should be referred to the Office of Ethics. Questions of a legal nature should be referred to the Office of the General Counsel.

4 Acceptance of gifts to the agency are not prohibited if:

  1. The gift is from a State, local, tribal or foreign government incidental to cooperation in carrying out a Federal program;
  2. The gift is authorized by the express purpose of a statutory gift acceptance authority; or
  3. Acceptance of the gift is in the public interest because the benefits relating to the acceptance or rejection of the gift substantially outweigh the appearance of loss of impartiality on the part of USDA in its dealings with the donor.

5 This is based upon Office of Government Ethics guidance in light of Sanjour v. Environmental Protection Agency.

6 The prior approval requirement is based on the guidelines within the Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Department of Agriculture.