(UPDATED COVERAGE, Sept. 4)  NAPLES, Fla. — The Sunshine State’s tomato growers plan promotions through the Fresh from Florida retail marketing program.

UPDATED: Tomato group joins Fresh from Florida marketing programAt the Sept. 3 Florida Tomato Institute, Reggie Brown, manager of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, said the tomato industry plans to “move into a new era” by working with promotional partners.

He said the partnership with the Tallahassee-based Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Fresh from Florida program should help increase tomato sales.

FDACS’ division of marketing promotes about 20 commodities, including bell peppers, berries, cabbage, citrus, corn, lettuce and potatoes with retailers throughout the world that carry the Fresh from Florida logo and promote Florida produce in their weekly store ads.

Samantha Daves, the tomato committee’s director of education and promotion, said the two organizations are planning for the spring promotions.

“We are doing our own promotions as well, so this effort will be on top of what we’re already doing,” she said. “The FDACS campaign will give it more weight and focus.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the tomato industry’s entrance into the promotional program should help increase sales.

UPDATED: Tomato group joins Fresh from Florida marketing program“This is a big, big deal,” he said during a Sept. 3 reception. “Thank you for enrolling your entire membership in the program. It’s now a branded program to consumers, not just feel-good advertisements in ag publications.”

At the Tomato Institute, which features speakers discussing agronomic-related topics, Brown presented his annual state of the industry talk.

In the 2013-14 season, which ended in June, Florida growers shipped 39.7 million 25-pound cartons of round tomatoes compared to the previous season’s 35.5 million cartons.

From 2009-13, the industry averaged 39.6 million cartons a year.

The total calculated industry value for 2013-14 was $348 million compared to $378 million for the prior season, Brown said.

“Last year’s season can probably be best described as a typical year,” Brown said. “In relative terms, it’s pretty obvious to understand that things have improved in terms of average price. The industry is becoming more typical in terms of its value and pricing over the last couple of years.”

In its 39th year, the Joint Tomato Conference is sponsored by the committee and the exchange.