US co-operative Land O'Lakes earned US$59.9m in its third quarter despite "significant challenges" including increasing commodity costs and economic uncertainty.

The Arden Hills-based dairy product producer posted net sales of $2.9bn compared to $2.1bn in the third quarter of 2007.

Strong sales and profits in the company's agronomy and crop protection products division offset losses in other divisions. Agronomy earnings totalled $142.2m, compared to pretax earnings of $6.8m for the same quarter of 2007.

The company's dairy foods division posted a drop in third-quarter sales to $985.6m and a pretax loss of $23.4m, compared to sales of $1.1bn and a breakeven third quarter one year ago.

"Our positive results, in this challenging environment, reflect not only strong early-year markets, but also the work we have accomplished in bringing increased focus and discipline to our company and our businesses, as well as our successful commitment to reducing debt and building the balance sheet," said Land O'Lakes CEO Chris Policinski. "I am confident we are in a good position to move forward in a very challenging economy."