CoBank, a major lender to U.S. agriculture through its role in the Farm Credit System, on Wednesday said its first quarter net earnings rose 26 percent from a year earlier. 

The growth was driven by stong grain and commodity prices, which increased the loan demand for nadling and storing grain from farm co-ops.

Net earnings were $212.1 million for the quarter ended March 31, up from $168.7 million a year ago.

CoBank recorded a $12.5 million provision for loan losses — equral to the amount recorded in the first quarter of 2010.

CoBank, a $69 billion co-op bank and member f the Farm Credit System, is a government sponsored enterprise created by Congress in 1916 to provide a reliable source of credit to the U.S. agriculture industry.