I've been waiting patiently for Deere's (NYSE:DE) fourth-quarter results. The company plays a significant worldwide role in agriculture, and since it reports later than most of its major industrial peers, its results provide an almost separate look at the fortunes of the U.S. and world economies.

For the quarter, Deere's results were (not surprisingly) a mixed bag. Net income was $345 million, or $0.81 per share, compared to year-ago income of $422.1 million, or $0.94 a share. However, the most recent quarter included a pre-tax hit of $0.08 a share related to the closing of a facility in Welland, Canada. Revenue for the quarter rose 21% to $7.40 billion.

Wondering how the world's economic circumstances affected the company? Note that Agricultural Division sales were up 43%, and the segment's operating profits from the unit grew by 23%. While Deere's raw material costs rose, both volumes and price realizations increased even more.

Sales for the Commercial & Consumer sector -- whose products include those green garden tractors you may have seen your neighbors driving -- were down 11% for the quarter, resulting in a $16 million operating loss, versus an $11 million loss for the same quarter a year ago. Its other equipment division, Construction & Forestry, managed to nudge sales up 3% year over year, while operating profits there slipped by one-third. As we might have expected, John Deere Capital -- the financial-services arm -- saw its operating profits fall by 30% year over year.

Looking ahead, Deere's management echoed a number of other companies in adopting a guarded outlook. Fellow equipment manufacturers Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and Manitowoc (NYSE:MTW), oilfield services kingpin Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB), and chemicals maker DuPont (NYSE:DD) -- which also has seen strength from its agriculture unit --  have all been cautious in their recent views of the future. In its own overly lengthy analysis, Deere concluded that "changes in governmental banking, monetary and fiscal policies…may not be effective and could have a material impact on (our) customers and markets."

That's fine, but I'm still convinced that Deere will continue to benefit from its pivotal role in agricultural equipment -- and ultimately food production. However foggy its results or future forecast, Deere deserves at least a glance from Fools and non-Fools alike.

Plow ahead with further Foolishness:

Fool contributor David Lee Smith does own shares in Deere, along with an "I brake for tractors" T-shirt, but he doesn't have an interest in the other companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Fool's disclosure policy secretly wants to drive a combine harvester.