Beaver County farmer gets probation for killing geese

Canada geese

PITTSBURGH — A Beaver County farmer and his farmhand were sentenced to probation and community service for using corn laced with a banned pesticide to kill geese and other migratory birds.

U.S. District Judge W. Scott Hardy on May 29 sentenced farm operator Robert Yost, 52, of New Galilee, to a year of probation and 100 hours of community service. He was also fined $21,000. Jacob Reese, 27, an employee of Yost and a resident of Enon Valley, was sentenced to a year of probation, a $5,500 fine and 50 hours of community service.

Yost and Reese were convicted in January of killing 17 Canada geese, 10 red-winged blackbirds and one mallard duck on leased farmland in Lawrence County, following their October 2022 bench trial.

The pair were also convicted of unlawful use of a registered use pesticide and conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States.

The case stems from an incident in June 2020 when dead birds were found in a soybean field leased by Yost, who operates Yost Farms. In addition to farming more than 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans, he leased the 8-10 acre field from a family in New Beaver Borough, in Lawrence County.

A game warden who investigated the scene testified at trial that there was a 100-yard-long trail of corn with dead birds on or beside it. Testing from the state animal diagnostic laboratory showed the geese died of carbofuran toxicity. The corn also tested positive for carbofuran, a restricted-use pesticide declared unsafe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2009.

One of the landowners reported seeing Reese spreading something in the soybean field from the back of a UTV earlier that day. When questioned by the game warden, Yost and Reese denied using poisoned corn in the field but said they spread old seed corn for the birds to eat instead of their soybean crop.

Yost’s attorney called three witnesses to testify on his behalf at the sentencing hearing, who all said he was a “proud family man and community member,” according to reporting by TribLive.

In imposing the sentences, Hardy emphasized that the defendants’ crimes were “serious, created a risk to the environment and harmed the public’s trust in the source of their food,” according to a DOJ press release.

The court also highlighted the defendants’ lack of remorse and noted that imposing a term of community service would serve to redeem the public’s trust in safe and ethical farming. The court indicated at sentencing that the defendants’ required community service should be focused on wildlife conservation or farm safety.

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