Given the scale of the egg-farm operation in Turner, and the shocking nature of the animal cruelty charges against its operator, a $34,675 state fine is, bluntly, too small.
Maine Contract Farm agreed Monday in 8th District Court to pay that amount in fines and court costs.
With about 5 million birds in its Maine barns, that works out to less than a penny per hen, and it pales in comparison to other penalties levied over the years against this company.
Of course, the charges only involve a very short period of time and specific cruelty to only 10 hens, all documented in a hidden-camera investigation by an animal rights group.
Still, we have little doubt that inhumane practices were standard operating procedure until the state raided the farm.
On top of the penalties, Maine Contract Farming agreed to pay $100,000 to the Maine Department of Agriculture to fund ongoing monitoring at the Turner farm and other egg farms across the state.
It was interesting that hog-lot and egg-farm owner Austin "Jack" DeCoster attended the hearing. Under his management, the Turner farm earned a reputation for cutting regulatory corners to increase profits.
Wherever DeCoster has gone over the years, conflict and litigation have followed. In 1996, DeCoster was fined $3.6 million for federal health and safety violations at his Turner egg farm.
At the time, the U.S. Labor secretary called living conditions for DeCoster workers "as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop we have seen."
In 1999, DeCoster paid $5 million to settle wage-and-hour claims involving 3,000 workers.
The state of Iowa has sued DeCoster numerous times for water pollution and waste violations on his hog lots in that state, eventually classifying DeCoster as a "habitual violator" of state laws.
When DeCoster bought 5,000 acres in South Dakota, the state denied him permits to operate under a statute called the "bad actor" law.
And DeCoster was once accused of concealing his identity from state officials to invest $110 million in a large Ohio egg farm.
Given his long track record of skirting regulations, it is good the state is setting up a system to monitor DeCoster's future compliance.
It is also encouraging that Jay DeCoster, Maine Contract Farming operations manager, is at least acknowledging the importance of following state law.
"The mistreatment shown on the video was unacceptable, and we took swift and broad-scale action to respond," he said in a news release issued Monday.
And state veterinarian Don Hoenig has apparently affirmed that the farm is in "substantial compliance" with state regulations.
"There appears to have been major commitment at all organizational levels ... to ensure a higher level of bird care and more scrupulous attention to detail in the management of the flocks," he is quoted as saying.
The agreement will include a training program for workers that covers humane care, hiring of a full-time manager to oversee hen health, and regular monitoring and flock review by an avian veterinarian.
Still, we hope the state stays on its toes. The penalties in this case are too small to alone guarantee future compliance.