WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s move to scrap a plan that would prevent some children from working in dangerous farm jobs drew sharp rebukes Friday from child welfare advocates who claim the president caved to election-year pressure from farmers and Republicans.

The Labor Department spent more than a year working on the proposal to ban children younger than 16 from using power-driven farm equipment — including tractors — and prevent those under 18 from working in grain silos, feed lots and stockyards.

Labor officials tried to avoid controversy by specifically excluding children who worked on their parents’ farms. But the proposal became a popular political target for Republicans who called it an impractical, heavy-handed regulation that ignored the reality of small farms.

Reid Maki, coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, said the Labor Department’s sudden decision late Thursday to withdraw the proposed rules means more children will die in farm accidents that could have been prevented.

“There was tremendous heat, and I don’t think it helped that it was an election year,” Maki said. “A lot of conservatives made a lot of political hay out of this issue.”

The goal was to protect children who are four times more likely to be killed while performing farm work than those in all other industries combined.

But the proposal was routinely mocked in rural states where farmers often have their kids do chores that can include operating heavy equipment.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said the rules would threaten a way of life, even preventing kids from operating a battery-powered screwdriver or a pressurized garden hose.