US dairy firm Land O'Lakes saw earnings slump in the first quarter due to a charge relating to the settlement of a class action lawsuit.

For the three-month period, earnings amounted to US$£30.9m compared to $82.7m a year earlier.

A significant portion of the difference in earnings was the result of a $25m charge related to the settlement of a lawsuit brought against the company’s MoArk subsidiary.

Land O’Lakes, however, increased sales to $3.07bn from $2.95bn. The increase was led by the dairy foods business, with strong results from branded butter.

Land O’Lakes president and CEO Chris Policinski said the company’s first-quarter performance reflects the impact of a “still challenging economy and volatile commodity markets”.

“This was particularly evident in our feed and industrial (processing) foods businesses, which are being affected by continued financial stress in many segments of agriculture. But even with these challenges, the fact that more than half of our business portfolio achieved higher sales is a strong confirmation of the value of our brands and the loyalty of our customers and consumers,” Policinski said.

The firm said it is confident of its overall performance in 2010, as well as its longer-term outlook.