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Press Release

Beaver County Farmer and Employee Sentenced for Using Toxic Pesticide to Kill Migratory Birds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Two Western Pennsylvania men were sentenced on May 29, 2024, for their use of a toxic, banned pesticide to kill migratory birds, United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan announced today.

United States District Judge W. Scott Hardy sentenced farm operator Robert Yost, 52, of New Galilee, to a year of probation, a $21,000 fine, and 100 hours of community service. Judge Hardy sentenced Jacob Reese, 27, an employee of Yost and resident of Enon Valley, to a year of probation, a $5,500 fine, and 50 hours of community service. Yost and Reese were found guilty by Judge Hardy in January 2024 following their October 2022 bench trial.

The evidence presented at trial established that, in June 2020, Yost—as operator of Yost Farms in Beaver County, Pennsylvania—and his employee Reese conspired to kill migratory birds present on leased farmland operated by Yost Farms using carbofuran, a registered restricted-use pesticide. The Environmental Protection Agency concluded no later than 2009 that the risks for all uses of carbofuran were unacceptable and that all products containing carbofuran generally caused unreasonable adverse effects on humans and the environment. As part of the conspiracy, Yost directed Reese to spread whole kernel corn coated in carbofuran in and around a leased field used for soybean cultivation where children were regularly present. The tainted corn attracted protected migratory birds that were killed within a short distance of where they ingested the corn.

Yost and Reese thereafter took steps to conceal their efforts to poison and kill the migratory birds, including destroying the feed bag containing the carbofuran-laced whole corn kernel. When confronted by officials from the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Reese and Yost also lied about their use of poisoned corn to kill the birds. In total, Yost and Reese were responsible for killing approximately 17 Canada geese, 10 red-winged blackbirds, and one mallard duck.

Yost and Reese were each convicted of one count of conspiracy, one count of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act for their use of carbofuran, and one count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Court indicated at sentencing that the defendants’ required community service should be focused on wildlife conservation or farm safety.

In imposing the sentences, Judge 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. 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.

Assistant United States Attorneys Jacqueline C. Brown and Nicole A. Stockey and Special Assistant United States Attorney Perry D. McDaniel prosecuted this case on behalf of the United States.

United States Attorney Olshan commended the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Office of Law Enforcement, Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division, Pennsylvania Game Commission, and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Yost and Reese.

Updated May 30, 2024