Times are still a little dodgy in the agricultural sector. Corn prices look to be in the lower third of their range over the last decade, and there are ongoing worries about the state of the beef and chicken export businesses. What's more, times are still pretty tough in major growing regions like Brazil and Argentina.

So what does this mean for that large manufacturer of construction, consumer, and agricultural machinery, Deere (NYSE:DE)? Should investors steer clear of tough times now, or do the odds favor rebound and recovery?

For the little that it's worth, Deere did manage to exceed expectations for the fourth quarter. Revenue growth of 7% and earnings-per-share growth of 11% may not excite some shareholders, but I'd say it's a fair bit better than the year-over-year decline that was expected in earnings.

If you follow CNHGlobal (NYSE:CNH) much, you won't see too much surprising news from Deere in terms of the agriculture market -- North America was pretty strong, Europe was a bit weak, and Latin America was even weaker. But like CNH and others, including Ingersoll-Rand (NYSE:IR), the construction market has stayed firm, and Deere experienced 18% revenue growth and 35% segment operating profit growth here.

I would still expect this to be a good year for construction machinery, and by a stroke of luck, Deere's management agrees with me. The less-good news is on the agricultural side, where it doesn't look like anything will be changing all that fast.

There are many competing theories on what will happen with agricultural equipment in the next few years. On one side, you have the arguments that ethanol production will boost equipment demand, and that the farm sector still has yet to see the replacement/upgrade cycle that boosted companies like Cummins (NYSE:CMI), Paccar (NASDAQ:PCAR), and JoyGlobal (NASDAQ:JOYG) in the trucking and mining sectors. On the other hand, you have the risks that government farm policy changes could change, and the inherent risks that go with agricultural products (poor weather, foreign government actions, etc.).

Whatever the case, I'm still not that enthusiastic about Deere. Big Green is definitely a better-run company than CNH. But the latter idea looks like a more interesting idea to my deep-value sensibilities.

For more Foolish thoughts on machinery:

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).