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Apr 8 / Roson

Land Value Tax Policy in Harrisburg, PA, U.S., Densification Policy

Harrisburg is the the capital city of Pennsylvania, U.S.  It has a population of 49,673 and it is the 9th largest city in Pennsylvania [1].  Harrisburg was rated as the 2nd best city in the U.S. to raise families by Forbes Magazine[1], an American business magazine well-known for its lists[2].   Before achieving this fame, Harrisburg, more than 20 years ago, was ranked as the most distressed city in the U.S[3].  The significant changes in the city’s development is largely attributed to the tax reform initiated by Mr. Stephen Reed back in 1980[4] as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, who later on became the Mayor of the city of Harrisburg from 1982 to 2010[5].

Harrisburg, PA, U.S
Source: ASPA National Weblog[9]

Two-tier tax rate policy

Before this tax reform,  the traditional property tax was used in Harrisburg with which both the land and the buildings / improvements on the land was charged at the same rate.  After the reform, the tax rate on the land was increased and the tax rate on the buildings /improvements was decreased.  The initial ratio was 2:1 when the two-tier tax rate (land tax rate : building tax rate) was introduced.  As the years passed by, the ratio has been adjusted and always been with a high rate on the land and a low rate on the buildings / improvements; in the recent years, the ratio has been increased to 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 6:1 subsequently and stayed at 6:1 (0.024 : 0.004 in actual rates)[4][6]. They ultimately want to eliminate the tax on the buildings / improvements and turn the taxation into a pure land value tax.  Like before, the tax revenues will go to city development in infrastructures,  public facilities such as schools and hospitals, etc.

The Purposes of the Policy

It’s believed that the traditional property tax taxing both the land and the building the same discourages the land owners to invest in the development of the land or the construction on it. As the higher value of the buildings / improvements, the higher tax you will need to pay to keep them. You may just want to leave your old house as it is because you will be penalized by renovating  / improving it (higher value, higher tax to pay).  Likewise, such a property tax discourages vertical development and inevitably encourages urban sprawl. Land supply is limited, therefore the use of each unit of land should be maximized.  With the two-tier tax rate policy, it is aiming for city revitalization by incentivizing urban renewal and curbing urban sprawl, specifically as the follows according to Reed[4]:

  • induce the highest and the best use of the land
  • reward the better use of the land
  • discourage land being left vacant or unused
  • encourage vertical and high rise development
  • discourage spread and preserve natural areas and open space areas such as parks, historic sites, etc.

Historical Outcomes

The effect of this tax policy has been noticeable since 1982 and it’s described by Reed, up to 2010[4]:

  • 4.8 billion worth of investments occurred
  • taxable properties went from $212 million to $1.6 billion
  • residential units sharply increased
  • vacant structures fell by 80%
  • crime rate dropped by 28%
  • thousands of new jobs were created

Overall, the two-tier tax rate policy seems effective in encouraging development and population densification as well as achieving the stated purposes.  However, the coverage of the tax reduces the effectiveness of this policy where the land and properties owned by the state and non-profit bodies are exempted[3]. The exemption is the same as before the policy change. For example, the churches don’t need to pay this tax and, thus, there’s virtually not much  incentive for them to make their best use of the land, at least, compacted construction is not necessary.   Likewise, the state-owned land might just be left vacant as before.

Why It Works

It is logical that the two-tier tax rate policy can achieve the densification purpose. After the reform, the tax on land was increased and the tax on the buildings /improvements was decreased. With that in place, the opportunity cost to keep a vacant land becomes relatively high.  You will more likely to sell it or develop on it.  Likewise, it attracts investments.  If you decide to build on the land, now that the tax rate on the building is so low, you will want to maximize your return and building higher levels that is within your budget. When you rent out the units, because of the reduced costs from the taxes on the buildings, you can rent out the units for lower prices compared to when the traditional property tax was in place.   This would also help provide more affordable housing to the residents.  However, as more development comes in, the land values will be driven up, resulting in high taxes for the landowners. Therefore, the reduction in costs might eventually be cancelled out and the residents might still pay similar amount of rents as before.

On the other hand, the commercial investors might opt for the land in the rural areas where the land value is lower, thus a lower tax.  However, in this case, it is restricted. According to Pennsylvania’s zoning legislation[7], the rural ares are for (although not limited to) agriculture, timbering, mining, recreation, tourism etc. and the development of infrastructures are limited.  Together with such a zoning legislation, the intended effects of the policy can be and have been captured[8].


The two-tier rate tax on the land and the buildings / improvements in Harrisburg has been quite successful in achieving its purposes of urban revitalization in the City of Harrisburg. It has encourages the compact city development where buildings are  densely and vertically built in the city center to maximize the land use per capita and the increase in  population density follows.   Although the policy doesn’t aim to decrease crime rate, etc., the increasing tax revenues do in a way support the development of the public and social sectors of the city and improve the overall living standard of the city and benefit the residents.  The early investors, landowners  renters are probably much better off under the effect of the policy, as the land value increases and increases the amount of taxes, the benefits are diminishing. However, the city as whole is still better off.


1. Wikipedia.  (Mar, 2013). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Retrieved from,_Pennsylvania

2. Wikipedia.  (Mar. 2013). Forbes. Retrieved from

3. Hartzok, Alanna. Earth Right Institue. (n.d.). Pennsylvania’s Success with Local Property Tax Reform: The Split Rate Tax. Retrieved from

4. (Dec. 2012). Land Value Taxation – The Harrisburg Experience. Retrieved from

5. Wikipedia. (Dec. 2012). Stephen R. Reed. Retrieved from

6. (2005). City of Harrisburg Two-Tier Tax Rate. Retrieved from

7. Yarbrough, Robert J., (2000). PENNSYLVANIA’S ANTI-SPRAWL LEGISLATION. Retrieved from

8. Speirs, Mark. (Dec. 2010). Land Value Taxation: An Underutilized Complement to Smart Growth Policies. Retrieved from

9. ASAP National Weblog. (Jun, 2012). Living in Fear of Tomorrow – Harrisburg. PA. Retrieved from

Mar 22 / Roson

Milan’s Area C Congestion Pricing Scheme

Milan, the second largest city in Italy (next to the capital Rome),  has an area of 181.76km2 and a population of 1.35 million people[1].  It is the top fashion city in the world as well as a major financial and business center in both EU and the world[2].  It also has the top level of cars per capita (car concentration)  in the world, which was reported as 0.6 cars per resident[3] in 2011, according to the study by Rotarisa et al. With that being said, it is not hard to imagine, Milan is one of the most polluted and most congested cities in the world.


Political Origin and Objectives of Area C Congestion Pricing Scheme

In Jan. 2008, the administration under Mayor Mrs. Letizia Moratti introduced the Ecopass pollution pricing scheme to help curb pollution in the city. It set up the 8.2km2 restricted zone in the city center of Milan (the busiest area in the city) where vehicles need to pay a fee to enter between 7:30am and 7:30pm daily. Different types of vehicles pay a different charge, etc. [4].  According to Rotarisa et al., over the 3 years implementation of the Ecopass scheme, the air pollution had been reduced but the benefits appeared to be diminishing and came to be exhausted[3].  On the hand, Mayor Mrs. Moratti failed to be be reelected in 2011. Mr. Giuliano Pisapia, in June. 2011, became the new Mayor of Milan and needed to decide whether to extend Ecopass, replace it or change it some way. In the referendum around the same time period, 80% votes went to support converting the Ecopass pollution scheme to a more strict congestion scheme[5]. Thus, the congestion pricing scheme Area C came into effect in Jan. 2012 in Milan to replace Ecopass[6].  The Area C scheme has the following  aims:

  • Tackle congestion issues directly by reducing vehicle access to the city and improving public transit networks.
  • Reduce pollution caused by traffic.
  • Improve sustainable travel modes[5].
  • Overall, improve the life quality of those who have activities associated with the city[7].

How does Area C work?

The Area C congestion pricing scheme is designated for the same area under Ecopass.  To enter this 8.2km2 zone  of the city center of Milan on the weekdays between 7:30am – 7:30pm (Thursdays’ changed to 7:30am – 6:00pm, since Sep. 2012 )[6]:

Milan Area C Area

Area C Restricted Zone, Milan, Italy;
Source: Wikipedia

  • Vehicles (with exceptions) are entitled for a flat fee of €5.
  • Vehicles that belong to the residents inside the area have 40 free entries annually and a flat fee of €2 after that. These vehicles must be registered.
  • Some types of vehicles are banned in this area, that include those with emissions at Euro level 0, gas engine, and Euro levels 0,1,2,3, diesel engine.  According the the EU emission standards, those high polluting vehicles[8].
  • Public transportation are free to enter which includes buses, emergency vehicles, taxis.
  • Hybrid, bi-fueled vehicles and scooters are free to enter.

The entrance tickets can be purchased by cash, debit or credit from various locations like meters, retailers, etc. They need be purchased and activated on the same day before entry.  Upon entry, the surveillance cameras at the access point will be able to identify the classification of the vehicles and the due charges[7].

The entire system seem pretty smart and the registration for resident vehicles is key to distinguish between the non-resident and resident vehicles. However, for residents, it might provide incentives for those who didn’t often use vehicles to drive in order to use up the free entries since they are free or use the free entries to give rides to non-residents for profits or not. On the other hand, the lower income residents who use vehicles often would be affected the most considering that they would have taken public transit which costs less, if not for a particular reason to use vehicles.

Although there’s no study publicly available to explain how the 40 free entries were decided, the government of Milan probably did research on it. A follow up study to assess the usage of the 40 free entries for resident might be worthwhile in improving the policy in the future.

Also, for allowing hybrid and bio fueled vehicles free access seems to be only on the consideration of pollution reduction. It will create incentives for people to switch to those types of exempted vehicles and at the end the number of vehicles accessing the city center will rebound.

Results after one year of implementation

According to official estimates reported by XinHua,China in Feb. 2013, the Area C scheme in the one year time “caused a reduction by more than 30 percent of vehicles inside the designated restricted zone and 7 percent outside it”[9].  In terms of pollution reduction, “PM10 and NOx emissions [were reduced by] 18% and CO2 emissions [were reduced by] by 35%”, according to a recent study[10]. The study also indicates that Area C has raised €20.3 million for the public transport  investment funds and the bike sharing system.  The funds then can be used to further improve the public transit and improve infrastructure to make biking a safer and more feasible way of transportation. Although the lower income group don’t directly benefit from the scheme, they will be benefited as the transit net work improves, since they are probably the most frequent users.


Overall, the Area C  through the charge to reduce the number of vehicles accessing the city center of Milan could be more effective and more lasting if the there’s no exemption on the hybrid or the bio fueled vehicles. This policy can work more effectively by focusing on one main goal which is the reduce congestion.  For pollution reduction, it should be addressed by a separated policy or scheme independent of Area C.




1. Wikipedia. (2013, Mar.).  Milan. Retrieved from

2. Wikepedia. (2013, Mar.). Economy of Milan. Retrieved from

3. Danielisa,Romeo. Rotarisa, Lucia. Marcuccib, Edoardo. and Massianic, Jérôme. (2011, Nov.). An economic, environmental and transport evaluation of the Ecopass scheme in  Milan: three years later. Retrieved from,%20finale.pdf

4. Wikipedia. (2013,Mar.). Ecopass. Retrieved from

5. Di Bartolo, Caterina. (2012, Nov.). AREA C in Milan: from pollution charge to congestion charge (Italy). Retrieved from

6. Wikipedia. (2013, Feb.).  Milan Area C. Retrieved from

7. Commu di Milano. (n.d.). Area C. Retrieved from

8.  Desiel Net. (2012, Sep.). EU Cars and Light Truks. Retrieved from

9. XinHua, (2013, Feb.).Feature: The decade for Milan air pollution control. Retrieved from

10 . CASCADE project. (2013, Mar.). Milan hosts first CASCADE study visit. Retrieved from

Mar 8 / Roson

Plastic Shopping Bags Levy Scheme in HK

Hong Kong (HK), a city of 1,104 km² (less than half the size of Greater Vancouver) has a population of 7 million people1 (more than triple of the population in Greater Vancouver2). HK  is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Like other affluent economies, HK is facing the challenges of waste management, among which municipal solid waste (MSW) management is of top concern. In a formal and comprehensive study done by  GHK Ltd. (a consulting company) in March 2007, it shows that if the municipal solid waste disposal rate were not controlled,  the existing landfills in HK was expected to reach  full by 20153.  It is only sensible for any government to take serious steps to deal with a pressing matter like this.


Brief of Plastic Shopping Bags (PSBs) Levy Scheme


Political Origin & Goals

Having sensed the crisis of MSW management as well as aligning with the world’s environmental protection initiatives, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) of the Government of HK set out the Policy Framework for the management of MSW in 2005. The Policy Framework suggests introducing producer responsibility schemes (PRS) as a key policy tool based on the “polluter pays” principle as one of a series of initiatives to help achieve MSW objectives3. MSW objectives include the followings:

  • use sustainable practices in MSW management
  • reduce the amount of MSW generated
  • increase recycling of MSW
  • reduce the disposal of MSW at landfills

Under this Policy Framework, Plastic Shopping Bags (PSBs) Levy Scheme was proposed by EPD  in May 2007.   It aims to provide a direct economic incentive to encourage the public to reduce use of plastic shopping bags.  Although less than 2% of the waste sent to the landfills come from PSBs, the government also hope to use the opportunities through this scheme to raise awareness and educate the public to make environment-friendly choices in their daily life.



The PSBs Levy Scheme was set out to charge consumers 50 cents HKD ($0.07 in CAD) per bag they ask for at the cashiers of the prescribed retailers (to be listed). This PSBs levy directly targets the pollutant itself and the polluters. It should reduce the generation of the pollutant being targeted meaning less PSBs being produced/imported and less ending up in the landfill.  For the price of the levy, it was supported and believed to be the sufficient rate to effectively reduce use of PSBs. That’s by the majority of about 1000 survey takers from the general public during the  public consultation from June to July 2007.   This 50 cents per bag pricing seems to base on the public opinion of their willingness to pay for the pollutant instead of the marginal damage of the pollutant, disposal of the PSB. This raises questions about the cost-effectiveness of the levy.



In late 2008, the Plastic Shopping Bags Levy Scheme was made into a Regulation/ Ordinance4). In July 2009, the scheme was put in effect and guarded by legislation. The prescribed retailers would be penalized if they failed to follow the scheme.  This is important to ensure the effectiveness of the levy in terms of enforcement, compared to a voluntary scheme.

Use of Levy Revenue

The retailers return all the levy collected to the government on a quarterly basis.  The levy will go to the environmental fund to support environmental projects5).


In general, the proposal received considerable public support despite the opposition from the plastic bag Manufacturers and retailers5). However,  the levy would inevitably increase the consumption of the substitutes / alternatives. This was anticipated but the effect was underestimated.

  • For the plastic bags inside the supermarkets used for produces and bakery goods, for hygiene purpose, consumers don’t need to pay for them. This would encourage the consumers to use more of these bags.
  • For paper bags or laminated bags, they  simply are not plastic bags and they aren’t levied. If possible, the retailers, for better competitiveness, would probably switch to those bags so that their customers won’t bear the cost of the bags .
  • Likewise, the consumption of plastic bags for non-shopping purpose such as plastic garbage bags is believably to be increased, as people will have to use some kinda of carrier for their household garbage if not the used-to-be-free PSBs. In fact, it’s shown that the use of garbage bags went up by 63% since the beginning of the scheme to 20116).

The lower income group under this scheme is believed to be most negatively impacted with the charge imposed. They probably used more free PSBs since they probably never had money for garbage bags and so forth.


Sector Coverage

When the scheme was introduced and in the first 2 years of implementation from 2009 to 2011,  it targeted only the retailers which are the major supermarkets and shops7):

  • offer all of the following categories of goods for sale:
    • any food or drink
    • any medicine or first-aid item
    • any personal hygiene or beauty product
  • have 5 or more retail outlets;
  • or at least one retail outlet that has a retail floor area of not less than 200 square meters

In 2012, the government decided to extend the coverage to all retailers8). Thus, the small medium enterprises/businesses would be affected as well.




There are quite a bit of loopholes in this PSBs Levy Scheme in HK.   It does reduce the use of PSBs; the goal at this is reached.  However, it encourages use of other types of bags by a lot which are more polluting in terms of size and weight.  Therefore, the overall effectiveness of reducing MSW is minimal or could result in negative effect.  Also, the pricing and the coverage of the levy makes it less cost-effective. The marginal cost of damage from the pollutant PSBs is still unknown. Even though the levy is in place for all retailers, it’s not in place for all bags. It would lack of cost-effectiveness considering the waste of other types of bags would be (further) increased.



1.Wikipedia. (Mar 7,2013). Hong Kong. Retrieved from

2.Wikipedia. (Mar 6,2013). Greater Vancouver. Retrieved from

3. GHK Ltd. (Mar, 2007).“Assessment of Benefits and Effects of the Plastic Shopping Bag Charging Scheme” by GHK (Hong Kong) Ltd.  Retrieved from

4. EPD of Government of Hong Kong. (Dec, 2008). PRODUCT ECO-RESPONSIBILITY (PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS) REGULATION. Retrieved from

5. EPD of Government of Hong Kong. (Aug, 2007). Public Consultation Report on the Proposal on An Environmental Levy on Plastic Shopping Bags. Retrieved from

6.Toloken, Steve. (Aug, 2011). Consumers buy heavier bags; plastics use rises after Hong Kong taxes bags. Retrieved from

7. EPD of Government of Hong Kong. (Feb, 2010). The Environmental Levy Scheme for Plastic Shopping Bags – Latest Levy Income. Retrieved from

8. Tam, Stephanie. (Oct, 2012). Hong Kong Plastic Bag Levy. Retrieved from


Feb 7 / Roson

Carbon Tax System in Finland

Quick Facts

Finland was the first country to introduce carbon tax as an instrument for climate change mitigation.  The carbon tax was put into effect in January, 1990 in Finland, where they only contributed 0.3% to the worlds CO2 emissions1; the tax was based on the carbon content of the fossil fuels and charged at  €1.12 per tonne of CO2 ($1.51 CAD, using today’s exchange rate) when it was first started. The carbon tax was reformed in 1997 and 2011. Now, it’s evolved into a combined tax of carbon and energy tax charging €18.05 per tonne of CO2($32.82 CAD) and €66.2 per tonne of carbon ($89.08 CAD)2. In 2010, Finland’s CO2 emissions was ranked 59th among the countries in the world3.  Below is an overall picture of the current effective carbon tax rates among countries (the list is not exhausted but it gives you the significant ones). Finland’s is ranked 15th. To make a comparison with the countries we are more familiar with, Canada and the US are ranked 32th and 33th respectively in the world’s effective carbon tax rates. In 2010, their CO2 emissions were ranked 2nd and 9th in the world 3and there is probably no significant change in these 2 years considering the level of effort each has been putting in. 


Carbon Tax Rates


However, in terms of per capita greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, Finland was ranked among the highest countries in 2010 which is illustrated in the greenhouse gas emissions “report card”4 below.

Per capita GHG emission


Origin & Goals

Let’s now take a step back. How was the carbon tax originated?

More than 20 years ago, climate change already caught the global attention.  The first world climate conference was held at February 1978 in Geneva, where climate topics were identified,  studies and research on climate change were initiated.  Since then, the sustainable development issues have started to influence the policy-making in Finland5.  Also, it was foreseeable that the world would need to join in dealing with the climate change. It would allow a competitive advantage to start first even though the costs would be relatively higher due to the lack of experience.

The purpose of the carbon tax is to curb the emissions of greenhouse gases primarily CO2.  CO2 can remain in the atmosphere for 100 years; it absorbs heat rays (infrared radiation). With massive amount of CO2, it results in global warming and initiates anomalies in the ecosystem threatening the living beings.  The carbon tax is to create an incentive for reducing CO2 emitting human activities, from something small and everyone can do like the use of vehicles, to something big but not unattainable like adopting a cleaner technology in production.

Again, the carbon tax is based on the carbon content in the fossil fuels. The carbon content in every form of fossil fuels is precisely known, so is the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere when the fuel is burned.  This is an important and necessary prerequisite for carbon tax to work because the measurement of the quantity of  pollution is based on it. As Dr. Ron Wasik said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it.” Only with the accurate measurement can the efficiency and equity of carbon tax itself be ensured.



When the tax was first initiated in Finland in 1990, there were few exemptions for specific fuels and sectors.

  • Peat and natural gas had a favorable tax treatment with a special deduction scheme in the sales taxation (the value added tax). Peat as an energy source might be relatively less known.  It is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation which can be burned to generate heat and electricity. Peat is an abundant resource in Finland6. In 2005-2010, the tax on peat was exempted7 because it was considered biofuel different from fossil fuel,even though it emits CO2 during combustion. In fact, peat emits the same amount of CO2 as coal per unit of energy8. This probably works in favor for the energy demanding industries in Finland but not the environment and it should also bring up questions about the effectiveness of the carbon tax implemented in Finland.
  • On the other hand, wood industry was exempted from the carbon tax. The wood industry in Finland is an export-oriented industry which enjoys comparative advantage in the world.  It makes a logical sense why they allow the exemption for the wood industry; however,again, it raises questions about the effectiveness of the carbon tax.
  • In addition, fuels used in industrial production as a raw material or inputs in the manufacturing of goods (i.e. for non-energy purposes) were also exempted8. This is contradictory to the idea of taxing the “upstream” industries2.  It does seem like when the carbon tax was introduced in Finland, it was not used in the way as it was truly intended to be.

Finland has remained as an active supporter and implementer of carbon tax since the inception of it. Learning from the past experiences, there were adjustments to the carbon tax rates and coverage over the years.  The major reforms took place in 1997 and 2011.  In 1997, the rates were largely increased and the carbon tax was added with a tax on the consumption of electricity1. In 2011, the carbon tax was turned into a combination of carbon tax and energy tax7.  The tax rates were adjusted accordingly among the carbon component and the energy component and the peat was set to be reintroduced.


Distributional Effects

The carbon tax system is more than putting a levy on the fuels or energy and collecting money from those.  In Finland, they have a combination of  tax-shifting packages for making the carbon tax revenue-neutral9, by tax reduction such as reducing income taxes, etc. In fact, their earlier policies aiming at reducing income taxes just coincided with their initial climate change initiatives where the carbon tax was introduced.  The Finnish government seems to be using the tax cuts for income transfer from the higher income group to the lower income group.  For example, in the tax cuts proposed by Finnish government in 2009, the tax cuts would be distributed equally over all income levels, and would also apply to pensioners10.  Despite all, some industry representatives still think that carbon tax is just another way to increase government budget revenues.


It’s always not easy for the first timer.  Finland as the first timer of carbon tax in the world did put in hard effort in going after a sustainable and better future. It seems to me that due to some political reasons and maybe more of the short term economic considerations, Carbon tax in Finland hasn’t worked as effectively as it potentially can.  Without a comprehensive cost and benefit analysis, it’s hard to say what is the most appropriate scheme.  However, at the very least, we can see that the energy source and industry that generates the most CO2 are being treated with favors. This is against the motive of climate change mitigation.



1. Economic Instrument in Environmental Policy. (2008, Dec). Economic Instruments – Charges and taxes. Retrieved from

2. Carbon Tax Center. (2013, Jan). Pricing carbon efficiently and equitably. Retrieved from

3. Rogers, Simon. (2012, June). World carbon emissions: the league table of every country. Retrieved from

4. The Conference Board of Canada. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions. Retrieved from

5. Wikepedia. (2012, Oct). World Climate Conference. Retrieved from

6. Wikipedia. (2013, Feb). Peat. Retrieved from

7. Ministry of Evironment, Finland. (2012, Feb). Environmentally related energy taxation in Finland(2012). Retrieved from

8.  Vourc’h, Ann and Jimenez, Miguel . (2000, Jan). Enhancing environmentally sustainable growth in Finland. Retrieved from

9 . Andersen, Mikael Skou. (2010, Mar).  Europe’s experience with carbon-energy taxation. Retrieved from

10. Jokivuori, Pertti. (2008, Sep). Tax cuts proposed under 2009 budget plan. Retrieved from

Jan 29 / Roson

Local Adaptation

"Think Global. Eat Local."

I am obviously not the first one to say this and won’t be the last one either.  There is too much to say about this topic / philosophy.  Here, let me share something personal and not so personal on it and focus on the “Eat Local”.

You probably know that my favorite food and thing is bread.  How does bread come into this picture of local adaptation when we talk about “Eat Local”?  First of all, what is the main ingredient of bread? No doubt. It is flour. Where does flour come from? It depends on the type of the four, and the flour people most of the time use in baking is milled from wheat. One of the most famous brands of flour (easily accessible from our local supermarkets) claims that their flour is all made from Canadian wheat.  This is no surprise since Canada is one of the leading producers of wheat in the world.  Is this local enough?

Have you ever thought of growing wheat in your backyard and making your own bread out of it?  Even if you knew how, it will take a lot of time and effort and it will be more expensive than simply go buy a loaf of bread from a bakery close by.  Thus, it is not really practical or realistic.  However, it’s never a bad idea to make this into a project for educational purpose or experience learning.  In fact, one of the elementary schools in UK put such a thought into an experiment where students grew wheat from seeds, harvested and milled it into flour which they used to make foccacia bread[1].  I think this is a great way of teaching the ideas of sustainable living and reducing food miles, etc, not to mention it’s put into action.  It does incur quite a lot of costs to pull off a project like this. However, the social benefits in the long run is not to be neglected, as the culture and the mindsets of people are among the key elements in dealing with environmental issues.



1. Moody,Mark. (Nov, 2012). An experiment in making bread at school the sustainable way. Retrieved from


Nov 24 / Roson

Week 10 – Wrap up.

What Went Right / Wrong in the past week’s trades:

Last week’s corn, wheat, soybeans futures all went up which favored my long contracts (3 longs on W2Z and 2 longs on S3F). My overall gain compared to the previous week is $5012.55.


I was uncertain about the corn futures as the trading volumes appeared in a downward trend meaning weakening in the pricing trend if there’s any.  On the other hand, there’s not much new information from the fundamental point of view to allow me to make further analysis.  It seemed to me the corn futures are going to be volatile.  I meant to pay closer attention to how it’s going to pan out over the week. The corn futures (C2Z) went up by 2.3% overall last week (C2Z: opened at 826’4 on Monday and closed at 845’4 on Friday)[1].


For wheat, I had anticipated the wheat futures prices to go up since the beginning of last week where I saw the ending of an inverse head and shoulder in the W2Z price chart.   The wheat futures (W2Z) went up by 1.5% overall last week (W2Z: opened at 835’4 on Monday and closed at 847’6 on Friday)[2].


Last week, I made a predication of a trend reversal in the soybeans market based on its weeks’ downward trend entering into the condition of being oversold.   It seems right and the futures prices of soybeans (S3F) went up by 2.3% overall last week (S3F: opened at 1386’6 on Monday and closed at 1418’6 on Friday)[3].

Fundamentally, the weakening US dollars seemed to play a major part in bringing up the prices as more exports happened for that reason during last week’s trades[4].


The Road Ahead / Cool Source of Information:

Coming into the week 10’s trading and wrapping up, I think I am going to miss it.  I have had quite a lot of fun participating in this trading game. Paying attention to daily news in the grain market started as a chore and now has turned into a habit of mine. Before this game, my sources of news were mainly the local Chinese TV/radio stations,  now I certainly have a much larger pool of cool sources of information to refer to.  I’d like to extend this habit beyond the sense and scope of the markets. When you see the news about the price of this year’s thanksgiving dinner going up, it’s really not just about the market anyways.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank those who inspired me over the weeks in sharing trading strategies, organizing trading blogs, understanding the TradeSim, etc.  Thank you also for sharing the ups and downs, frustrations, excitements with me and allowing me to do the same. =]




1. CME Group. (2012, Nov 24). Corn Futures. Retrieved from

2.CME Group. (2012, Nov 24).  Wheat Futures. Retrieved from

3. CME Group.  (2012, Nov 24).  Soybeans Futures. Retrieved from

4. Polensek, Tom. (2012, Nov 23). U.S. grains reach multi-week highs on weak dollar, export sales. Reuters Chicago. Retrieved from

Nov 18 / Roson

Week 9: What Went Wrong -it’s the Down Down Down…

Last week, I used technical analysis and identified an inverse head and shoulder pattern on the wheat prices chart which should indicate a trend reversal. I anticipated an upward price trend to follow.  I made an order for 3 long contracts on wheat (W2Z) at the beginning of the week and left them there, hoping the wheat prices would go up.  However, it was a week about downfalls, the prices of all three crops had gone down overall over the week.

Here’s an overview of my trading in the past week:

Contract Position # Date in Price in Current Price Gain/Loss
W2Z Long 3 Nov 12,12 851 838 -$1950
S3F Long 2 Nov 06,12 1514 1383 -$13075

I carried the soybeans long contracts since the week before, since then the price of soybeans has been falling as well.  I have just been hoping that some news might come up (some change in the market) could bring up the soybeans price again.  However, the downward trend of soybeans was accelerating upon the news about China cancelling the soybeans import order[1]. For the other crops, the better crop report still seems to be a force pushing down the prices in the past week.  The recent news about the “fiscal cliff”[2] seems to be another factor ensuring the downward prices.  “fiscal cliff” (the possibility of another recession) is not a news itself but the time of it happening is approaching, it’s normal that traders now have come to worry about it more than before.

The corn prices were up on Friday supported by the news about the US upholding the ethanol mandate[3]. Basically, a lot of corns will continue to go into producing bio fuel in the future.  However, the gain of corn here couldn’t make up for the loss over the week.  I don’t have any corn contracts at the moment, but I will consider.

In a word, I seem to be stuck with the long contracts on soybeans now… and I still need to offset the long contracts on wheat before I am losing too much on them.



1.Polensek, Tom. (2012, Nov 16). U.S. soy sets five-month low as China scraps orders. Retrieved from

2. Franz-Warkentin, Phil. (2012, Nov 16). Grains, oilseeds seen pulled toward ‘fiscal cliff’. Retrieved from

3. Rucker, Patrick  and Timothy. (2012, Nov 16). U.S. upholds ethanol mandate.  Retrieved from

Nov 17 / Roson

Week 9: My Road Ahead

This week, I will continue to learn about technical analysis and exercise it in my tradings.  At this point, I am so new to technical analysis. I will say that my “predictions” would be mixed with guessings as well.  Therefore, I will still go back to the fundamental side of the information to make my decisions.   On a day without too much new information from the market, let’s look at the technical here:

Corn: It appears to me there’s the descending triangle formed before the past week’s trade and the breakout below the support was the Friday before where the corn prices fell hard upon the release of USDA Crop report.  It’s that’s correct, the price should pick up a declining trend which hasn’t quite happened yet.  On the other hand, the open interest and volume appear to go downward which suggest if there’s trend, it’s becoming weak.  I guess I just need to be patient and see how things pan out next week before making any move in the corn market.

Source: CME Group


Soybeans: The soybeans prices clearly appear with a downward trend.  Based on the RSI indicated in the graph below, it’s oversold which could suggest a reversal on the way[1].

Source: CME Group


Wheat: The wheat prices shown in the graph below is below the moving averages (black: wheat prices, blue: moving average of 5 day, red: moving average of 10 days,  green: moving average of 20 days).  This indicates a sell signal.

Source: CME Group


I am still stuck with 5 losing contracts (2 longs on soybeans, 3 longs on wheat).  If my “conclusions” above are correct, I should look for a time to offset my long contracts on soybeans and set a stop loss for my long contracts on wheat or wait for it to go back up?  Ok, I still need to think this through or if you have any suggestion?





1. Investopedia. (n.d.). Technical Analysis: Indicators and Oscillators. Retrieved from

Nov 17 / Roson

Week 9 : Cool Source of Information – Back to the basics

I am not having new sites or new places to visit. This week is about back to basic, making good use of the tools already found and underused by myself over the weeks, for technical analysis or fundamental.

  • CME Group (e.g.  As we develop more knowledge about technical analysis and want to use more of it, the types of charts and the features available for the charts we use become crucial.  CEM group trading pages not only provide the auto-refresh price information when the market is open, but also the charts of price movements in difference forms (e.g. line, bar, candlestick, area).  The charts also provide options to show features on top of the price movements like moving average, volume and open interest,  RSI (relative strength index), etc. All these come quite handy for technical analysis.
  • All the major news media, some particular for crops. It’s good to keep updated with the daily news as Jim suggested, not only for the trading purpose, but also for ourselves to be in touch with what’s happening in our community and the world.  All the information collected would be helpful for analysis of the economy as well.  Here are a few news media I have been using over the weeks and will continue to use. Some of them are found by google search, some are from fellow classmates’ cool source:


Nov 12 / Roson

Week 8 – What Went Right and Wrong

Here’s an overview of last week’s gains and losses

Crop Contract Position # Price in Price out Gain/Loss
Wheat W2Z Long 2 869.50 890.50 +2098
Corn C2Z Long 1 741.25 747.25 +311.50
Soybeans S3F Long 2 1514 -6275

Overall, my equity change last week was -$3865.5.


The wheat prices rose 4 days in a row last week before they fell on Friday upon the release of USDA crop estimation report.  There have been news about increasing wheat export[1],  strong demand for wheat export and export hopes[2] which I think are most likely to be the price driver on the rising wheat prices last week.  I have my 2 long W2Z contracts from the week before and I made a price limit to short at price 880.  They were offset on Wednesday at price 890.50 which was higher than my price limit.


Soybeans prices have been falling.  However, it’s not a good idea to just go long based on the fact that the prices seem to be low and go long from the “low” prices.  I also forgot to make a Stop Loss order to offset those contracts.


Corn prices have been quite volatile, and the percentage change has been low.   I made a price limit which allowed a small margin to offset and it was triggered.  However, it might not be a good idea to trade in the corn market at the moment for its volatility and without a clear price trend supported by the fundamental. On the other hand, technical analysis shall still come in play quite well.

Anyways, continue happy trades into the 9th week.




1. Ahad, Abdul.  (2012, Nov. 3).  EU wheat supported by good export demand, weak euro. Retrieved from

2. Ahad, Abdul.  (2012, Nov. 9).  US wheat rises with export hopes; corn, soy weak. Retrieved from


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