A plague rides roughshod over everything, and so it has proved again with the latest outbreak of foot and mouth this week: supply has been plunged into turmoil, processors and packers stand idly by, and farmers gnash their teeth. (Editors, too, must rip up pages and start again, but that's another matter.)

And so we come to the Year of Food and Farming. What a nightmare for Sir Don Curry and the team at Defra, that hours after they had announced the start of the year-long programme at Clarence House, with a mission to take a nation of 'concrete kids' to the countryside, the countryside was closed for business: I don't suppose too many farmers will want the nation's 'yoof' traipsing round the farm right now.

That's not the end of the problems, however. I've heard countless aims behind the launch. Controlling obesity and encouraging healthy eating, creating greater awareness of the environment, boosting and validating the rural economy as well as recruiting more young people into the food and drink industry: all these will, we are told, be achieved by random visits to the countryside, and programmes that make children grow their own vegetables (on council estate window ledges) and cook a single meal.

I don't want to belittle the methods, but I do question how effective this programme will be when it has so many goals. And organiser Tony Cooke's concern about 'what's in it for manufacturers' is moot. Why would Coca-Cola want to sponsor a farm trip?

I worry that 'The Year' still feels like a pick-me-up for the farmers. Sir Don insisted to me this week that wasn't the case but if a connection with children is what's required, I'd like to feel that Ed Balls and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, rather than Defra, was leading this.