The U.S. Department of Agriculture will conduct a free webinar on Feb. 24, 2 p.m. ET, about navigating the USDA Market News Portal, a storehouse of valuable market data for fruit and vegetable commerce.

Every business day, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service collects and reports detailed information about marketing conditions for hundreds of fruits, vegetables, ornamental crops and nut products at major domestic and international wholesale markets, production areas and ports of entry. All of this information is stored in the Market News Portal at http://www.marketnews.usda.gov/portal/fv and is available to the industry at no cost.

“We want to make market participants aware of the valuable resources the USDA provides them,” said Robert Keeney, deputy administrator of the Fruit and Vegetable Programs. “Our market news reports not only include pricing information to ensure balanced market opportunities among the supply chain, but their availability on the portal allows individuals to search for data sets according to individualized criteria that meet their needs.”

The Market News Portal offers customized views and downloads of market data from as far back as 1998 for wholesale or terminal markets and retail stores. It also holds shipping point prices, covers imports and domestic movements, and includes market data for specialty crops. Patty Willkie, officer-in-charge of the Idaho Falls Market News office, will introduce the functions of the portal and provide practical tips to get the most out of market reports. Following a formal presentation, participants will have the opportunity to ask her questions live.

Fruit and Vegetable Market News Portal Training: How to Get the Most out of USDA’s Market News Reports and Information is hosted by Red Book Credit Services as part of the free Red Book University educational offering and is part of an ongoing webinar series presented by USDA to keep the fruit and vegetable industries informed about the programs available to support them. Previous webinars in the series are available at http://bit.ly/fvwebinars.

Registration for the webinar is free and is required to participate. Signing up is possible by visiting http://bit.ly/webinar_register_fvmn. Once the “Event Information” page appears, participants can click the “Register” link under “Event Status” and follow instructions. Upon completion, a confirmation email from Webex will be sent to the email address provided. The deadline to register is Monday, Feb. 21, 2011.

For more information or answers to questions, contact Christopher Purdy, Business Development Specialist, USDA AMS Fruit and Vegetable Programs, tel. (202) 720-3209, christopher.purdy@ams.usda.gov. Additional information is also available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/FruitandVegetable.