LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday he will refer to state legislators an emergency rule proposed by the Arkansas State Plant Board that would temporarily ban the sale and use of the herbicide dicamba.


The board approved the 120-day emergency rule June 23 after receiving hundreds of complaints from farmers who say misuse of dicamba has damaged their crops.


Emergency rules proposed by the board go first to the governor and then, if the governor approves them, to the Legislature for final approval.


Hutchinson also said in a news release Friday he has instructed the Plant Board and the Department of Agriculture to create a task force to review dicamba technology, investigate its use and develop a long-term solution for Arkansas.


The governor further announced he has approved the promulgation of a rule proposed by the Plant Board that would allow the board to assess penalties of more than $1,000 but not more than $25,000 for “egregious” violations of dicamba rules that result in significant crop damage.


The board presented the proposal to the governor as both an emergency rule and a regular rule, which would allow it to remain in effect beyond the 120-day period of the emergency rule.


The stiffer penalty range is required under Act 778 of 2017, but the new law does not take effect until Aug. 1. Approval of the emergency rules would allow the Plant Board to move more swiftly.


The proposed rules will need approval from the Legislative Council, the Legislature’s governing body between sessions. The council’s next meeting is scheduled for July 21.


In a letter to state Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward and Terry Walker, director of the Plant Board, Hutchinson wrote, “As I have stated since January of this year, the Plant Board should have an adequate and an effective enforcement mechanism to deter the illegal application of chemicals that are a significant burden to our agricultural producers.”