MINNEAPOLIS — A difficult economic environment weighed on results at Cargill as third-quarter earnings in the period ended Feb. 28 fell 68% to $326 million from $1.03 billion in the same period a year ago. For the first nine months of fiscal 2009, earnings totaled $3.01 billion, up 4% from $2.9 billion in the first nine months of fiscal 2008.

"Cargill’s earnings turned down in the third quarter, as the troubles in the global economy and financial system arrived at our company’s doorstep," said Greg Page, chairman and chief executive officer. "When conditions reversed course in mid-2008, we began preparing for tougher times ahead. We cut expenses, decreased debt and curtailed non-base capital spending, but we kept the focus on our customers who need a strong, reliable partner to help them provide more value to the customers they serve."

Cargill said the lower results during the third quarter affected all five of its business units, and while performance in the units was mixed, many businesses experienced weaker demand and lower sales volumes as well as fewer trading opportunities as markets fluctuated within narrower ranges.

Looking ahead, Mr. Page said Cargill is encouraged by global efforts to stabilize the financial system and revive economic growth.

"When conditions come into place for a recovery on the broader economic front, with our fundamentals in place, we’ll be ready to build on those trends," Mr. Page said.