ENTERPRISE — A long-time Enterprise-area resident who moved on to do good has done just that, earning his second Secretary’s Award for his work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture by helping farmers get federal assistance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marc McFetridge, son of Larry and Davise McFetridge who farm east of Enterprise, has been working for the USDA for 15 years. He now works for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in Washington, D.C.
McFetridge said this year’s award, presented Jan. 12, was for his work helping secure about $23.6 billion in payments to farmers nationwide.
He won the award in 2018 for streamlining the USDA’s ability to purchase surplus foods for distribution to food banks. He said that effort also earned him the Presidential Honors Award — a distinction about eight people received out of roughly 330 Secretary’s Award winners from all departments of the federal government.
McFetridge said this year’s award, presented Jan. 12, was for his work helping secure about $23.6 billion in payments to farmers nationwide through two payment periods. The awards are not just handed out in a random fashion, he said.
“About six to seven awards (based on the strategic goals for each administrator) are given out at the administrator’s level; there are 18 different administrators within the USDA, meaning roughly 126 administrator awards are given out each year,” he said. “From there, those winners are moved up to the undersecretary level, based on the same criteria of the undersecretary’s strategic goals, about six to seven awards given out at the undersecretary level and there are seven undersecretaries in the USDA, meaning out of the 126 administrator awards, 49 are awarded the Undersecretary’s Award. From there, the secretary picks seven projects based on the winners from the undersecretary level to win the Secretary Award.”
McFetridge’s award was presented in the name of former Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
McFetridge was born and raised on his parents’ fourth-generation cattle and hay ranch near Enterprise. His sister and her husband, Larissa and Ed Barnhart, are partners in the ranch today.
After graduating from Enterprise High School in 1996, McFetridge took a somewhat circuitous route to working for the government.
“My path to the USDA is a bit crazy,” he said Feb. 2 in a telephone interview from Washington.
He first got a bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University in agriculture business management in 2001, and then worked at the Food Innovation Center in Portland for a year. The center is an OSU experiment station. He obtained his master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics in 2004 and the next year accepted a job for AC Nielsen in Paramus, New Jersey, working on pricing analysis for Nabisco products. He stayed there for a year and then accepted a job with the USDA as a marketing specialist for the Marketing Orders and Agreement Division. In July 2006, he moved to the Washington, D.C., area. He stayed with the division for three years before accepting a job as an economist for the Promotion and Economics Division, where he’s been for 12 years.
In his position, he handles millions of federal dollars for various programs.
“One of my main duties is to assist the USDA procurement division providing pricing analysis for fresh fruits and vegetables that go into the National School Lunch program,” he said. “Every year, the USDA purchases roughly $2.2 billion dollars of food that goes into the school feeding system. Fruits and vegetables typically make up about 30% of that budget.”
McFetridge said while the emergencies the COVID-19 pandemic caused were at the core of his award-winning work, they also took away from the award. He said normally, a reception accompanies the presentation of the award. This time, it was all virtual.