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Mutliple Factors Cause Cost of
Keeping Horses to Skyrocket

by Suzanne Bush

As prices of fuel, feed and bedding rise simultaneously, stable owners in Pennsylvania are grappling with what might be called a perfect storm—a combination of events that is demolishing profits and wreaking havoc with business plans.

Fuel prices have tripled over the past three years. Grain prices are rising. Hay prices are rising. Bedding prices are rising. It might seem that fuel costs are the common denominator; but a closer look reveals another culprit that could bring even worse conditions for horse farms and those who depend on them.

Fuel prices are rising as supplies are shrinking. And worldwide demand for diminishing supplies of oil will likely continue pushing prices higher. Renewable energy sources are gaining traction because they seem to represent viable alternatives to oil and because people see them as less harmful to the environment. Whether so-called biofuels are actually more efficient and less polluting remains an open question. One thing is clear, though -- The effort to replace oil with biofuels is generating its own unanticipated crisis.

Thousands of acres of Midwest farmland are being converted from producing grain for food to producing grain for fuel. And that fact will radically alter the future for the equine industry here and elsewhere. According to Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, "the food and energy economies, historically separate, are now merging. In this new economy, if the fuel value of grain exceeds its food value, the market will move it into the fuel economy. As the price of fuel climbs, so will the price of food." And so will the cost of feeding horses.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How are rising prices and a slowing economy affecting you? What are you doing to cope? Email us at PAEquest@aol.com and let us know -- we will share your comments in a future article.

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