Three produce marketing campaigns conducted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services helped increase retail sales of Florida-grown agricultural products by $394.4 million over last year, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson announced this week.

The 2005-06 marketing campaigns — “Global Grid,” “Florida Farmers’ Express” and the “Florida Watermelon Campaign” — saw an increase in participating grocery stores, an expanded geographical area and an increase in the number of advertisements.

The marketing promotions are timed to coincide with Florida’s important winter-spring harvest, which supplies the United States with most of its domestically grown produce, according to a news release from the agriculture department.

The campaigns spanned 43 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, five Canadian provinces, and 11 Caribbean and Central American countries. Thirty-four retail grocery chains with more than 13,700 individual stores participated. They featured Florida products in their circular ads 754 times, yielding nearly 179,000 individual store ads that generated more than 8.8 billion consumer impressions, the news release said.

Bronson said the continued trend of increased retail sales is good news for Florida’s farmers and the state’s economy.

“Since our state’s farmers know we’re continually expanding markets for their products, they can plant for the future with a degree of confidence,” Bronson said. “That increased agricultural production benefits our state’s economy through purchases of agricultural supplies, machinery, wage expenditures and general spending.”

He added that the successful marketing promotions helped Florida create or retain an estimated 2,407 full-time jobs and generate more than $6.7 million in taxable revenues.

The promotions are part of the ongoing “Fresh from Florida” campaign and were joint ventures undertaken by the agriculture department’s Division of Marketing and Development, the Florida Department of Citrus and the Florida Watermelon Association.