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story.lead_photo.caption In this 2005 photo, a group of young pigs stare out of a pen at a hog farm in central North Dakota. Photo by The Associated Press

A Cole County judge has extended an order blocking a new Missouri law that sought to shield large farms from stringent local health rules.

Judge Dan Green on Wednesday banned enforcement of the law until he holds a hearing on the case Sept. 16.

The case was transferred to Green earlier this week. Presiding Judge Pat Joyce had initially been assigned the case and on Aug. 20 she delayed the law until Thursday.

Senate Bill 391 — sponsored by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, and signed into law by Parson in May — would prohibit county commissions and county health departments from passing regulations stricter than any state regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, which are industrial-sized livestock operations.

The bill would have taken effect Wednesday, as did all state laws that were signed by the governor.

In a lawsuit to overturn the law, critics allege it's unconstitutional and infringes on local control.

The Missouri Farm Bureau and several other agricultural groups named in the lawsuit are condemning it as a way to hold back farmers. The groups argue the law is needed to stop "scientifically unfounded" local health ordinances.

Filing the lawsuit were the Cedar County Commission; Cooper County Public Health Center; Friends of Responsible Agriculture, of Fulton; and private citizens Jefferson Jones, of Fulton, and Susan Williams, of Clarksburg.

Named in the lawsuit are Gov. Mike Parson, Missouri Air Conservation Commission Chairman Gary Pendergrass, Missouri Clean Water Commission Chairwoman Ashley McCarty, the Missouri Pork Association, the Missouri Cattlemen's Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Under SB 391, a new or expansion of an existing facility would not occur until the Department of Natural Resources had issued an operating permit. CAFO applicants would have to demonstrate to the DNR they can meet several rules and design criteria; and they must prove they are a legal company; provide neighbor notices; meet buffer distances; and provide plans for animal management, manure generation and nutrient management.

The Associated Press and News Tribune reporter Jeff Haldiman contributed to this article.

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