WASHINGTON — A fireside chat featuring U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will open his department’s 96th annual forum Feb. 20 in Washington.

The topic will be the future of agriculture, challenges facing the sector and emerging solutions in the chat between Secretary Perdue and John Hartnett, founder and chief executive officer of SVG Ventures, a platform of corporations, universities and investors focused on the food and agriculture industries.

The 2020 Agricultural Outlook Forum, themed “The Innovation Imperative: Shaping the Future of Agriculture,” is set for Feb. 20-21 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel. The forum, U.S.D.A.’s largest annual meeting, typically attracts around 1,600 attendees from the domestic and global agriculture sectors, including producers and processors, as well as related roles such as policymakers, government officials, non-governmental organizations, plus academicians and journalists.

Following the fireside chat, John Newton, chief economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, will moderate an “Innovation as a Solution for Farmers” panel. Scheduled expert panelists are Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Jeff Broin, founder of Poet L.L.C., a producer of biofuels and coproducts; and Shari Rogge-Fidler, president of agricultural policy institute Farm Foundation.

Deputy Secretary Steve Censky of the U.S.D.A. will open the Feb. 20 morning session, which also will feature U.S.D.A. Chief Economist Robert Johansson laying out the department’s 2020 outlook for U.S. commodity markets, trade and U.S. farm income.

On the afternoon of Feb. 20 and throughout the day Feb. 21, attendees are invited to choose among 30 sessions featuring 90 total speakers on such topics as innovations in agriculture, global trade trends, food loss and waste, frontiers in conservation, and the science of food safety.

Attendees also are invited to a Feb. 19 pre-forum field trip to a local urban farm enterprise and a visit with scientists who conduct research on microgreens, locally adapted fruit varieties and other urban farming topics at U.S.D.A.’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Md.

During the conference, interested parties may keep abreast of the action on social media via the hashtag #AgOutlook and through the U.S.D.A.’s presence on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.